The BPIF's members day carries with it a strong whiff of end of term speech day at school. There are the speeches from president and chief executive, the duller financial bit, speeches from distinguished guests and then the prize giving.
Darren Coxon, at the mid point of his term as BPIF president – the equivalent of head boy – could report that Pensord Press, his day job, had participated in the campaign to invite MPs to visit print companies. His MP Chris Evans had been keen to help with employment opportunities.”We intend to continue encouraging and facilitating these connections between the industry and government throughout 2018,” he told members.
The more thorough report came from the headmaster, BPIF chief executive Charles Jarrold. To a large extent, until Brexit is completed any trade association is acting on uncertain ground. “Print’s diversity,” he said “will stand us in good stead.” And under such circumstances, engagement with elected representatives helps increase understanding of impacts on jobs and investment.
The lobbying activities are increasingly important, whether achieving £6.5 million of savings for 294 companies through the Climate Change Level or helping members understand the implications of GDPR. There is also outward facing promotion of print, through the Visual Media Conference in Leeds placing print at the centre of the communications universe, the British Book Design & Production Awards and especially with apprenticeships.
The Trailblazer scheme explaining modern apprenticeships to those offering them those recruited to them and their parents, has taken a step forwards and is within touching distance of the finish line. “The consortium are now undertaking the next stage of implementation, which we hope to complete this calendar year,” he explained.
Some of those apprentices received awards at the House of Lords once the federation’s AGM had closed. Guest speeches from Baroness Rita Donaghy of Peckham and Kevin Hollinrake MP for Thirsk and Malton, a constituency covering Ryedale Group and as an estate agent buying hundreds of thousands of leaflets a year, a supporter of print. He told the school that he was sure the country was headed for an orderly Brexit.
When former prefect Simon Biltcliffe stepped up to the podium he described the same Brexit process as a shambles. His real role was to present the Kathy Woodward Award to a deserving apprentice. “The most important thing that everybody knows is to invest in your people,” he said, before presenting the award named in honour of the former BPIF chief executive. It went to Precision Printing’s Billy Cribbs O’Riordan who had just joined the industry when Woodward visited the then Barking company and engaged in a lively debate with MP about the value of apprenticeships compared to academic degrees.
The choice of winner of the Victor Watson Award, endowed by the former chairman of Waddingtons was another close call. The judges were unable to decide on a single winner so instead elected to make two awards. One went to Sophi Djili project manager from De La Rue who had been closely involved in the installation of Komori Currency Technology presses and their implementation to print poems bank notes at the Bank of England print works in Debden. Agata Labedz, finishing operator at KCS Print, who joined the company from Poland three years ago, also earned the award.
The BPIF also had its won award to make. This is the outstanding achievement award, equivalent to the school prize. It was presented to Robert Davidson, chairman of the Alexir Partnership. Stepping up to accept, Davidson spoke about the pride and pressures of running the carton company, squeezed on price between the supermarkets and major brands on the one hand and the the board mills “and we are squeezed in the middle” he said.