Apprentice 18, the event bringing together printers and school students looking for apprenticeships, will be repeated next year, with strong prospects for a similar event in Leeds and perhaps elsewhere across the country.
Around 400 students from Year 11 and 12 from schools across London were invited to Ravensbourne University on the Greenwich Peninsula to meet 30 businesses, many of them printers to find out about potential employers.
For many it was an eye opener. Few of the youngsters had considered print beyond newspapers, magazines and perhaps books. Here they were confronted by interactive print, marketing material for major brands, packaging and 3D printing. “You work for Nike! That’s cool,” was a regular comment.
The jobs discussed comprised the traditional prepress, machine and finishing apprenticeships, but also opportunities in design, IT, marketing and sales. Few had considered the scope of what might a print company might involve. Many had come with a strong interest in design, all with a strong interest in this sort of career.
This was helped by only inviting a limited number from each school and from changes to Ofsted rules which now include promotion of apprenticeships as well as university placements in deciding a school’s rating. Careers officers are consequently obligated to promote training planes and this provided an opportunity for the BPIF at least. “While the students are listening to the presentation, I can slip around the back and talk to their teachers,” came the comment.
It was not universal. Three students had made their own way from Tunbridge Wells to attend, their school being unwilling to send a cohort.
The BPIF had invited a number of members along to show the breadth of careers that the industry can offer. “We have a whole number of different skill sets, currently with six apprentices – four in print production and two in the technical team,” says Pureprint. “It’s showing them that there’s more in the industry than newspapers and magazines. It had brought a benchful of samples included an embedded image that triggers video content when scanned with an app.
It had also brought along apprentices or recently qualified youngsters well placed to answer questions about life in print. And they came, students in twos and threes showing real interest. Fenton Smith, Boss Print managing director, is now considering an invitation to youngsters to come and see the Acton business.
Away from the BPIF area, Park Communications presented the range of magazines printed, including those for digital brands which might not be considered the first supporters of print, but which like those printing for Nike or Dior, provided something for the youngsters to latch on to. “We have had the opportunity to talk to people about print,” says managing director Alison Branch, “explaining where it sits in today’s digital world, where and how people are using print and where it works. They have asked some detailed questions.”
The event was organised by Ravensbourne and Stationers’ Company and after this trial it will certainly be back. Printers will have learned from this initial experience and the schools will have gone away impressed. There is also a swell in favour of a Yorkshire version. London demonstrated that Apprentice 18 worked: at least one printer received an application form filled out on the spot.