Charity looks to help plug skills gap in print

Making an impression: The winners and judges of the Print Futures Awards 2014 at the House of Lords.
Making an impression: The winners and judges of the Print Futures Awards 2014 at the House of Lords.
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Print has a future but the fact that it is created digitally can’t be ignored as the industry struggles with an ageing workforce and a shortage of skills.

The chief executive of the Printing Charity, Stephen Gilbert, said that he saw a future in print, but there was a growing need to help plug the skills gap.

Mr Gilbert said: “The industry has got a problem, its got an ageing demographic, 80 per cent are over the age of 40.

“We’ve got a big vibrant industry that contributes a lot of wealth and jobs to this country, if we don’t get the next generation in, it will die.”

To help plug that gap the charity will be giving away 34 grants of up to £1,500, this year, through its Print Futures scheme.

Anyone between the ages of 16 and 30 can apply for a Print Futures award regardless of whether they have a degree or not.

Mr Gilbert said: “Two years ago we did a grant to enable a young man who got an apprenticeship, find his niche in the industry – in warehousing and it paid for him to get a forklift truck licence and a seven-and-a-half-tonne licence.

“Which meant when he came to the end of his apprenticeship he got the job, and there were three apprentices and only one job.

“There’s a place for an academic qualification but there’s a place for skills and it should be the skills the industry needs and we need people with forklift truck licences, we need people who can drive trucks.”

Mr Gilbert said that the scheme was important in Yorkshire, as the region was the second largest centre in the whole of the UK. He said that there were problems with recruiting in print and that the industry needed to engage young people.

“But at the same time we all know how bad things have been since the Lehmann crash, firms haven’t always got the money to pay for the training, they want to invest but they just haven’t got the spare cash,” he added.

The Printing Charity has also teamed up with the Prince’s Trust to give disadvantaged young people a helping hand.

One beneficiary of this partnership was Kate Love. The young photographer from Bradford received a £750 grant from the Printing Charity in addition to a £4000 loan from the Prince’s Trust. Ms Love told The Yorkshire Post that she always had a love for photography. She said: “It was always something that I wanted to do but I left school at 13, without any qualifications.”

Her parents decided to remove her from school as she was suffering from bullying.

The budding photographer managed to get herself on to a BA Photography course at Bradford College accredited by Leeds Metropolitan University, graduating in 2012 with a 2:1.

She then went on to work for Macmillan cancer support in a fundraising role. But dealing with those impacted by cancer and doing a job, that although was rewarding but not her passion, took a toll on Ms Love’s health.

She said: “I wasn’t following my dream. It was a nine to five job. It was rewarding, I was helping people, but it wasn’t my dream job.”

Last September, Ms Love took the leap of faith and launched her own photography business.

The grant from the Printing Charity proved pivotal for Ms Love. She said: “It was a massive help for me, over the years I’ve bought most of my kit myself, the grant helped me buy a car and pay for my insurance.”

Although the early stages of setting up her own business have been challenging Ms Love says she still has a lot of support.

“It’s challenging, it’s slow progress but I knew it would be with photography. But its slowly progressing and I have been given lots and lots of support by the Princes Trust.

“It’s helped give me the freedom to be doing what I want to do in life.”

Helping young people dream

Winners of the Print Futures awards are invited to the House of Lords to collect their cheque.

Mr Gilbert said that a lot of the skills in demand in the print industry are inevitably IT based.

“Print itself is now very heavily computer IT based, so we need these skills but we need skills in sales, we need skills in customer care and warehousing,” he said. Kate Love completed the Prince’s Trust’s Enterprise programme which helped her set up her own business, with mentoring support and a low interest loan.

The Enterprise programme has helped over 80,000 young people set up in business since 1983.