The industry spoke and Government listened

The industry has come together and achieved a great result. Over the past few years, plenty of time and effort has been dedicated to the Print Trailblazer – a new employer-defined standard for apprenticeship programmes –  and these standards have now been approved by the Government.

The history

The Print Trailblazer proposal was first submitted to the Government in July 2014 but was unfortunately unsuccessful. However, feedback confirmed that it was a strong proposal which was clearly employer-led. Continued lobbying for Government support of apprenticeships resulted in a resubmission in February 2015 where James Buffoni of Ryedale Group and the Chair of the consortium lead a group of print employers and leading sector organisations, including the BPIF, in designing the new Print Apprenticeship Standards for Pre-Press Operator, Press Operator and Post-Press Operator.

By November 2016, Trailblazer standards for Level 3 and level 5 were approved and were launched by the BPIF in early 2017. However, challenges were again thrown in the direction of the Print Trailblazer Consortium and in February 2017 a call for support was made to the industry in order to help ensure single standard apprenticeships did not reduce levels of expertise in the industry.

Throughout 2017, the Trailblazer Consortium, whose members include the BPIF, Unite the Union, Ryedale Group, Oxuniprint, BCQ Group, CDi, Multi Packaging Solutions, Westferry Printers, Page Bros, De La Rue and The Printing Charity, continued to press its case for an appropriate approach to the new Print Apprenticeship Standards, which would replace the existing Frameworks. A further call to the industry for views resulted in a strong response, all supporting the employer-led consortium’s approach.

The Institute for Apprenticeship (IFA) had by now given initial feedback that it had listened after meeting with the Consortium’s Chair, James Buffoni and Vice Chair, Ian Wilton of Oxuniprint, and would support the ‘core plus options’ approach. A final call for feedback and support was issued in September 2017.

A great result

The Print Trailblazer has now been approved by Government. The scheme has helped to clarify three main points: firstly a confident message about why contemporary print is attractive – showing young people that contemporary print is alive and kicking. Secondly, it clarifies the journey that fresh, young talent and employers can make to work together successfully in three specific print roles. Thirdly, the Trailblazer standard plugs that gap by identifying – in plain English – what skills, knowledge and behaviours that a young person would need to succeed in that role.

James Buffoni commented, “The team have now successfully highlighted the core skills, knowledge and behaviours required by future apprentices. Thank you to everyone involved – this has been a rigorous process that has required perseverance from everyone involved. We can now move towards the creation of durable and practical delivery and assessment criteria which will help future apprentices and employers forge a meaningful career path.”

In much agreement with James, Ian Wilton said, “What a great end to a very long journey… The print industry and the BPIF have been very vocal in what they believe is right for the industry and the end result is we have an apprenticeship scheme that is exactly what was required. Once the end assessment criteria has evolved it will result in individuals that will take this wonderful industry we are in forward for future generations. Well done to everyone who has been involved in this, it really has been an industry-wide effort.”

Ursula Daly, Programme Director BPIF, finalised “Thank you to the consortium and to the industry for their support and perseverance, whilst this is a great milestone to have achieved we now need to forge ahead with producing an assessment plan and getting that approved before providers can start delivering under the new standard.

This is a fantastic example of the industry coming together with passion and dedication, ending in an extremely positive result, however there is still work to be done!


For more information, please contact Amy Hutchinson at

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