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Ahead of the Curve

FESPA UK's Next Generation

With the FESPA UK Association’s Next Generation initiative making waves in the industry, we look at what businesses can do to support the goal of making print more attractive to young people

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[L to R] Jay Burfield pictured with Lauren Brown, Jake Adams, and Alex Pollard who are members of the Next Generation Committee

Over to YOU!

Founded in 2023 by FESPA UK Association, the Next Generation initiative is striving to make print more attractive to young people as well as opening up more opportunities for networking, training, and development.

Jay Burfield, membership development executive at FESPA UK is the brains behind the initiative and also the Chair of the Next Generation Committee and has been in the industry for two years now. 

Describing how the Next Generation Committee was formed after noticing a lack of young people at industy events, Burfield says: “We had a few discussions at FESPA UK and decided to change this. From there we organised some small-scale training events specifically for this age group, each with different takeaway skills.

“We then approached some of the most emerging talent from the attendees and formed a Next Generation Committee.”

Working alongside the FESPA UK team, the Committee helps to give the younger generation within the industry a voice. The board focuses on creating events and initiatives that are beneficial to the next generation, as well as acting as a conduit between the industry and young people looking for an exciting, vibrant, and varied career in print, graphics, and signage.

Next Gen on Tour

Despite only having launched at the start of 2023, FESPA UK has already hosted five training days at various locations across England, making them accessible to people from a variety of areas.

One of these events included a large-scale networking day at the British Motor Museum in Warwick which saw over 40 attendees take part. This day saw people from all areas of print and graphics come together to expand connections and knowledge. 

Open to 18-to-30-year-olds who work in the print industry, the event offered something different with many networking days traditionally aimed at managing directors, CEOs, or senior members of the industry.

Packed with a full day of talks and activities, there was also a special appearance from Mark Wright of BBC One’s The Apprentice who discussed key lessons learned whilst building his business, as well as discussing his experience on the show.

The day also featured an open Q&A with supporters from The Printing Charity, Vivid Laminating Technologies, Compass Business Finance, All Print Supplies, and HP UK, giving attendees the opportunity to find out about their routes into print and how they have gained success in the industry.

Walking into a room of unfamiliar people, particuarly in a working environment, can be a daunting concept when not something you do very often. With this in mind, Colin Sinclair McDermott aka The Online Print Coach hosted a Networking Masterclass, giving delegates the skills and tools to connect with industry members and enhance their careers.

Another Next Generation Event was held at Liyu UK’s newly refurbished showroom in Ormskirk with the day focusing on marketing and social media. As well as giving delegates the necessary skills to add value to a business, attendees had the opportunity to get hands-on with the latest wide-format print technology from the manufacturer.

An Industry-wide Appeal

In September, the Next Generation Committee took to the road with Burfield leading a Next Generation Panel at The Print Show in Birmingham. Hosted on the newly revamped Knowledge Zone, the panel featured Jake Adams, managing director of Trade Embroidery; Alex Pollard, contract manager of RMC Digital Print; and Lauren Brown, project manager and customer service manager for TV and Film at Stylographics.

Adams had a unique entry into print due to starting his own company at the age of 16 after printing mugs at school. He later grew this business into one of the leading trade suppliers for garment decoration in the UK and hires both the younger and older generation. 

Pollard first started out in the industry as an apprentice at RMC in November 2020 during the second Covid-19 lockdown in the UK. He finished the apprenticeship early last year, going on to become a contracting account manager within the business.

Brown explained how she didn’t intend on starting a career in print and graphics but now juggling the responsibilities of both customer service manager and project manager in the fast-paced TV and Film division of Stylographics, she says she can’t see herself doing anything else.

With questions provided by Rob Fletcher, lead contributor for Print Monthly and SignLink, the panel discussed topics such as their own routes into print, how they think the industry as a whole can make print more attractive to young people, and their own favourite things about the industry.

For Burfield, it was the creativity and variety of print and graphics that drew him to a career in the industry.

Raising the point that no one leaves school wanting to be a printer or garment decorator, due to it not being taught, Adams recalled how he got into print by accident. 

“Two months prior to starting the mug printing business whilst at school, I’d never really understood print or heard of print.” Due to this start in the industry, Adams is open about the fact that this involved a lot of mistakes and on the job learning due to a lack of print colleges or classes that teach the variety of skills required within the industry.

For Pollard, the apprenticeship was the highest-paid option at the time which is what led him to apply initially.

However, he adds: “After a few days, you see the machinery, the technology, the prints that come off the machines and it definitely grew on me. You go outside now and everywhere you look, you go ‘I know where that came from’ or ‘we did that’. You can see it everywhere and that’s what excites me the most.”

Brown added that the diversity of print is something that isn’t acknowledged enough from outside the print industry. “Before I got into the industry if someone mentioned print, I’d think of newspapers, cards, and things like that. 

"But there’s so much more to it. It’s so much more technically advanced than I ever thought. You can print neon, and 3D, or you can have texture, and that’s what really gripped me and made me want to stay on the journey of print.”

Is the Industry Lacking?

With all this said, it remains the mission of FESPA UK and its Next Generation initiative to share these messages and champion the creative and exciting opportunities within print. Something that was highlighted during the panel discussion was the role the wider industry needs to play to help share this message.

“I feel like the industry is really lacking actually,” said Burfield. “I think the industry could do more to appeal to younger people in the 18-to-30 bracket and even at a younger stage as well. 

"Jake mentioned that he had the chance at high school to mug press, but a lot of kids haven’t had that opportunity. I think it’s up to companies to reach out to these schools and invite them to come down and see what they do, and provide a bit of experience.

I feel like the industry could really do more to appeal to people in the 18-to-30 bracket and even at a younger stage as well

“I think that experience will really capture quite a few creative minds. As Alex said, it’s a really great career to have.

I don’t know one person in print who isn’t paid fairly, compared to when you go out looking for your first job and you might settle for a local café or Mcdonald's, but why not print? It’s a great tool to have and it works in so many different sectors as well. It’s all about skills building.”

Highlighting the range of skills needed to produce print, Burfield adds: “It’s not just finishing, it’s not just taking something off a printer and sending something off to be put on the side of a building. 

"We’ve got accounts, engineering, management, there’s so many different pockets within print that people can explore. But no one ever leaves school and says, ‘I’m going to go and work at a printers’, and that’s why FESPA UK has developed this Next Generation initiative and committee.”

With a full crowd taking time out of their visit to The Print Show to listen to the panel discussion, Burfield said it was great to see so many people engage with the Committee and even better to see so many people asking about how they can get involved and start to send their young talent to some of the training days and networking events.

During the panel discussion, Burfield passed the baton over to the audience and said that now is the time for the industry to start supporting the initiative and drive to bring new talent into print. “It doesn’t need to be overly complicated,” Burfield says. “Invite young people along to events, and let them see the industry for what it really is: creative and diverse.

“No matter your skillset, there is a place for everyone in the print and signage industry. Even better, we need to be giving the spotlight to young talent and giving them the chance to upskill. Send them along to our training days and networking events.”

The most recent FESPA UK Association Next Generation event was held on October 18th at Zund UK and gave attendees the chance to oversee the entire print process from brief to completed design.

Zund UK hosted the most recent Next Gen Training Day along with Antalis, swissQprint, and Compass Business Fianance

This day saw roles from welding and production to design, customer service, and accounts come together to design, prototype, print, finish, and present a desk organiser to a panel of judges. 

Organisers commented on how impressed they were with the teamwork, communication, and creativity of the teams; and a number of the attendees commented during the day on how impressed they were with the capabilities of the kit, with some inspired to go back to their companies and try out new techniques on the technology. 

Information on upcoming events can be found here.

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