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Focus On


With the popularity of apprenticeship schemes on the increase in recent years, we take a look at these initiatives, their core benefits, and how print service providers can get involved

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You’re hired!

It is quite apt that we begin this feature as the new series of ‘The Apprentice’ starts on the BBC. While perhaps the television programme these days features young people seeking a path to fame rather than business success, nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to actual apprenticeship schemes, especially those in print.

In recent years, Print Monthly has carried a whole host of stories telling of the successes of apprenticeships.

O Factoid: Nick Hewer, one of the original aides to Lord Alan Sugar on the ‘The Apprentice’, spoke at The Print Show 2022  O

Whether it is a company hiring apprenticeship staff to full-time roles, or long-serving staff speaking of their journey to a current role having started out as an apprentice, there are many good things to be said about these schemes.

So, how do you go about introducing an apprenticeship programe to your business? We speak with a number of industry organisations to find out the best way forward.

Addressing the skills gap

One of the leading supporters of apprenticeships in print is the British Printing Industries Federation (BPIF). Karly Lattimore, managing director of BPIF Training, says apprentices, whether this be taking on an apprentice in a business or using the apprenticeship scheme to retrain a workforce, can certainly go a long way in mitigating the increasing skills gap in print.

Karly Lattimore, managing director of BPIF Training, says apprentices can help mitigate the increasing skills gap in print

“It’s widely accepted that our industry has an ageing workforce and a growing skills gap,” Lattimore says, adding: “It’s important to recruit or retrain to take advantage of those that are close to exiting businesses because they have a wealth of knowledge and expertise to share with the new generation that will otherwise be lost. It’s not just the technical apprentices, apprenticeship programmes in business skills and management can increase leadership capacity in the workforce too.”

It’s widely accepted that our industry has an ageing workforce and a growing skills gap

Lattimore goes on to say that introducing apprenticeship schemes into a business can add a whole new approach to a workforce, bringing new ideas and a fresh perspective. She adds that investing in workforce development can motivate existing staff by demonstrating long-term planning, 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,” Lattimore explains.

“In fact, with BPIF Training, more than 95% of apprentices who achieve their apprenticeship programme remain with the same employer upon completion, often progressing on to a higher-level apprenticeship. With significant funding available to support apprenticeship programmes, apprenticeships are a cost-efficient way of tackling the skills shortages in our industry.”

So, how do you go about getting involved and how can the BPIF help? Lattimore says that for anyone who might have engaged in apprenticeship training in the past, they will know there is a fair amount of work to be done in ensuring that your business is set up to take on an apprentice.

“Funding needs to be reserved, contracts need to be in place, vacancies must be advertised, and this is all before the apprentice even begins,” Lattimore explains, adding: “This being said, BPIF Training can support with all of this, guiding you through the whole process.

 “Whether you are an apprenticeship levy-paying organisation that 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.”

The BPIF is a Grade 2 Ofsted provider, the biggest provider of both print and print-related apprenticeships in England, with over 400 apprentices currently on the programme. The BPIF currently offers trade and business skills across two sectors for apprenticeships.

Under the BPIF’s trade suite are four apprenticeship programmes, the first of which being the Print Operative and Print Technician programmes, which are all-encompassing offering three specialisms: pre-press, press, and post-press.

Next, the Signage Technician apprenticeship is aimed at those looking to develop capacity in their business to design, manufacture, fabricate, and install signage. Finally, the Lean Manufacturing Operative standard is applicable in all manufacturing businesses and focuses on developing and supporting improvement, using continuous improvement methods, kaizen tools, process visualisation using lean principles and problem-solving tools and techniques.

Within its business skills, the BPIF delivers a range of programmes including team leading and management apprenticeships up to level five, customer service and sales, and business administration. Also, the newly introduced Supply Chain Practitioner programme has been launched in response to industry feedback and is aimed at developing skills in procurement, planning manufacturing, forecasting, customer service, and logistics – all skills needed for a modern print business.

“We are committed to ensuring that our programmes meet the needs of our industry,” Lattimore says.

Plenty of benefits

Elsewhere and another organisation championing apprenticeship schemes is the Independent Print Industries Association (IPIA). Both IPIA members, Spectrum Print & Plastics and Eight Days a Week Print Solutions (EDWPS) have both employed apprentices and were part of the IPIA’s gateway to the government’s Kickstart scheme