About the job
The printing industry serves a large number of sectors including the UK’s major printing, package and graphics industry. Print is used in journalism for newspapers and magazine, in education for books and journals, in advertising and for business to create impact, communicate information and illustrate commercial advantage. The industry also produces materials for entertainment and education, as well as other sectors. There is a tendency for print companies to become specialists within specific fields, as different types of material and end product require slightly different types of machinery.
Print minders or machine printers maintain and operate printing presses. Their work involves acting on instructions from a pre-press operator and setting up the printing press with the right materials for the production run. They feed data into computerised control units, carry out quality checks and restock ink levels as necessary. There are a variety of printing techniques and most machine printers will become familiar with several if not all of them. They include: screen printing, gravure, digital printing, flexigraphic and lithographic processes.
A printing administrator leads and organises a team working in planning, estimating, sales, buying and general management. The management of a print workshop or department requires organising workloads, supervising staff and planning schedules.
To become a machine printer, most employers expect a good standard of general education, such as passes at GCSE level in English, maths, science and IT. Good colour vision is needed and it may be possible to get into this job through an apprenticeship scheme, in which case four or five GCSE passes will be needed. There are also college courses that can help develop some of the skills required, including the ABC Diploma in Print Media and the City & Guilds Certificate in Printing and Graphic Communications.
There are apprenticeships available for people interested in becoming printer administrators as well as college and university courses in printing. Those who have previous experience in the printing industry or sales, management or supervisory experience gained in other industries have an advantage. Employers may ask for GCSE or A-level passes in English, maths, art and IT, or equivalent qualifications.
There are City & Guilds certificates in printing and graphic communications and BTEC awards, certificates and diplomas in graphics. Colleges and universities also offer foundation and other degrees in digital media, print media, graphics and graphic design.
Skills and knowledge
Like many industries, printing has been revolutionised by computerisation and people working in the field need to be able to keep up to date with changing technology.
Being a print minder is a practical job, needs an eye for design and colour and an ability to concentrate for long periods and meet deadlines.
As a printing administrator, IT skills and a flair for design are required. Problem-solving skills are important, as sometimes there are issues that need to be resolved during the printing process. For department heads, good customer care skills are needed and the role requires taking overall responsibility for making sure print runs are achieve quality standards, are cost-effective and meet deadlines.