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Need To Know


Attracting new workers to print is critical to the UK industry continuing to move in the right direction. Rob Fletcher looks at how apprenticeship schemes can help bring forward-thinking employees to our sector

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The BPIF offers a range of apprenticeships to support workforce development in print

Building for the future

Print has an extremely skilled workforce, with many staff having been working in the industry for a good number of years. However, with the market now moving forward into exciting new areas such as 3D print and cross-media applications, print-service-providers (PSPs) are seeking new ideas as to how to evolve their offerings.

As budgets are limited for many PSPs, this is where apprenticeships could prove invaluable. For a relatively low investment, print companies can bring in a new member of staff with a thirst to learn about the market, and train them up to become a valued member of their workforce.

With this in mind, we speak to some of the leading organisations involved with such schemes and find out more about how the benefits that an apprenticeship could offer to your business.

Cost efficient

The British Association for Print and Communication (BAPC) is a major advocate of apprenticeships, with chairman Sidney Bobb keen to set out how this sort of scheme can benefit print companies of all shapes and sizes.

“There are a variety of advantages to both the business and the individuals that are involved,” Bobb says, adding: “In terms of the company, it is a cost efficient way of tackling any skill shortages. Apprenticeships can be tailored to cover specific job roles including production, sales and managerial issues.

“Being a work-based scheme helps ensure there is a minimum or ‘real business down time’. It is probably the most appropriate way of handling employments and training in the 21st century.”

It is probably the most appropriate way of handling employments and training in the 21st century

Bobb goes on to say that hiring apprentices can have a positive influence on a print business, in that it demonstrates to existing staff that the company has positive long-term developments plans and assists in the general issues of staff retention. In addition, he says an apprenticeship can help provide companies with the skilled workers needed for the future, stating that “new blood means new ideas”.

PSPs that are members of the BAPC can work with the organisation to help start their apprenticeship journey, as Bobb explains: “When approached by a member company, we ascertain what is the requirements and help the business select the most appropriate apprenticeship agency for their purpose including, in many instances, using other print trade associations.

“We also help members during the apprenticeship period with any issues that may arise and encourage members who have an apprenticeship scheme running to make contact with each other and share experiences.”

Vital role

Taking this process a step further, the British Printing Industries Federation (BPIF) offers a range of apprenticeships to support workforce development. These range from a level two print apprenticeship, up to a level five management programme, with plans to review this offering in order to meet the changing needs of the industry.

The BPIF’s schemes range from a level two print apprenticeship, up to a level five management programme

Karly Lattimore, managing director of training at the BPIF, says that printing apprenticeships have a key role to play in terms of shaping the future industry.

Lattimore expands: “The printing industry plays a central role in marketing and communications, providing a physical product which is closely integrated into the multi-channel, multimedia and digital landscape. Print technician apprenticeships play a vital role in this technologically advanced and fast-changing industry being responsible for effective physical reproduction of artistry, designs and projects to meet the practical needs of both the customer and the business.

BPIF works with a team of highly skilled trainers with wide occupational experience within the print industry

“By taking on an apprentice, printers will benefit from staff who are highly skilled in a range of disciplines from knowing different types of print materials and technologies, to being able to operate complex machinery in the part of the production process relevant to their specific job role, using their technical judgments to optimise production, maintain machinery and to resolve production problems to improve performance.”

Lattimore also suggests there is a growing skills gap within the print industry, adding that apprentices play a vital role in filling this and will swiftly develop the skills needed to work effectively and efficiently within the industry. She cited recent research that suggested 74% of employers who have an apprentice reported improved product or service quality, with 78% reporting increased productivity.

O Factoid: According to the ‘Apprenticeship Evaluation 2017: Employers’ report, 74% of employers who have an apprentice reported improved product or service quality, while 78% experienced increased productivity O

Lattimore says: “Introducing apprenticeship schemes into a business can add a whole new approach to your workforce by bringing new ideas and a perspective. This does not only benefit the apprentice but in turn can generate ideas in existing employees leading to increased employee satisfaction and increased productivity.

“Hiring an apprentice and progressing them within your organisation also aids staff retention, providing your business with skilled employees for the future, thus reducing recruitment costs.”

Looking more closely at how the BPIF can help with apprenticeships, Lattimore says the organisation has a host of highly skilled trainers with wide occupational experience in the print industry. Each of these is an expert in the programme in which they deliver, thus allowing apprentices and employers to benefit from the best current industry practice.

According to the BPIF, introducing an apprenticeship scheme into a business can add a new approach to its workforce by bringing new ideas and a fresh perspective

Lattimore expands: “As well as our experienced trainers, we are able to support you with identifying skills gaps within your organisation and providing tailored apprenticeship solutions. Whether you are an apprenticeship levy paying organisation who is uncertain about how to allocate your levy pot, or if you are a smaller printer who needs support to access funding we are able to support you to develop your workforce and create the print industry of the future.”

Promoting print

Elsewhere, The Printing Charity also plays a major role in helping to promote apprenticeship schemes in the print industry. Neil Lovell, chief executive of The Printing Charity, is under no illusions as to the value these can bring to a print business, but says the industry must do more to showcase itself to potential new members.

The Printing Charity celebrates the achievements of youngsters in the industry easy year with its Print Futures Awards. Pictured: the winning apprentices from the 2019 Awards

Lovell says: “We’re all aware that the sector needs to be better at promoting itself to show the amazing range of roles on offer and apprenticeship schemes are one of the ways to help attract a new generation.

(L to R)Neil Lovell, chief executive of The Printing Charity, with Print Futures Awards winner Lauren Powell, and The Printing Charity chairman Jon Wright

“As the sector’s occupational charity, we recognise that we have a role to play in supporting training, which we do by working strategically with partners on sector-specific training initiatives across different age groups.”

Among the schemes and initiatives that The Printing Charity works with are The Queen’s Bindery Apprenticeship Scheme and the Confederation of Paper Industries’ Papermaking Apprenticeship, both of which it supports as a funding partner. Other key initiatives include the Stationers’ Foundation Postgraduate Bursary Scheme, the NCTJ’s Journalism Diversity Fund, the Rory Peck Training Fund, and Bound by Veterans.

Lovell goes on to say that The Printing Charity is keen to showcase the success of apprenticeship schemes as much as it can. Its annual Print Futures Awards do just this by supporting the professional and personal development of the sector’s rising stars between the ages 18 and 30. These include apprentices from across a range of disciplines; from the practical, through to the highly technical, creative and even heritage skills.

Lovell says: “Past apprenticeship winners include Lauren Powell and Connell Angus. Lauren says she learnt many new skills during her apprenticeship at Adare SEC, which she enjoyed so much she completed her qualification almost a year ahead of schedule.

“Connell has an 18-month modern apprenticeship with DC Thomson and is using his grant to develop his skills to progress in his chosen career.”

For further information on apprenticeships, including the full list of rules and regulations on rights for apprentices working at a printing business, PSPs can visit the Acas website. Acas, also known as the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, works with millions of employers and employees every year to improve workplace relationships, including apprentice.

The Acas website sets out a whole range of rules for apprenticeship schemes, such as how long they are permitted to work for, what pay they are entitled to and working rights.

Generating new ideas in what is now an incredibly competitive print market is key if PSPs are to further their business. By bringing in fresh and enthusiastic new blood, with a desire to succeed in the print industry, you may find yourself on an exciting path to new markets.

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