Machine printers set up and run the equipment that produces printed materials of all kinds.
The machinery used depends on the end product. It ranges from the enormous, multi-colour presses used to produce vast quantities of daily newspapers, to small-volume machines often used to print items such as simple business cards.
The equipment may print onto paper, or directly onto other materials such as card or plastic. A number of different types of printing processes may be used, for example, die stamping, flexographic, gravure, lithographic, pad and web offset. A printer may specialise in using a particular type of machine.
Printers may oversee the production of a wide range of materials, including:
- Newspapers and magazines
- Business cards
- Leaflets, brochures and catalogues
- Greetings cards
- Labels for packaging
A machine printer may:
Most modern printing machines are computerised. The printer uses a console to adjust the speed and pressure.
The end product emerges from a sheet-fed machine as single sheets. On 'web-fed' presses, used for high-volume jobs, it is produced as a continuous roll, which then has to be cut in a further process.
Machine printers often work alone on a job. On larger presses they may share tasks with colleagues. They report to a production manager.
Machine printers usually work 36 hours a week. To ensure expensive machinery is used to full capacity, many print companies run a 24-hour operation, so printers may work shifts, including some nights and weekends. Overtime may be available.
The work is done in print workshops. Some machinery is noisy and the work can be dirty. Hazardous chemicals are sometimes used to wash inks from the presses after a job. Depending on the environment, machine printers wear safety gear, including overalls, boots, gloves and ear protection.
Physical fitness is important as the work involves standing for long periods, as well as some lifting and handling.
Salaries may start at around £15,000 a year.
There are around 30,000 machine printers in the UK.
There are about 12,000 printing companies in the UK, employing around 160,000 people. Most are small family-owned firms which employ fewer than 50 people.
Employers are found in towns all over the UK. There are significant numbers in London and south-east England, and also in Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham, Birmingham and Bristol.
Printing is sensitive to changes in the wider economy, seasonal fluctuations in orders, and the growing use of online resources rather than printed material. However, the industry is still robust, and skilled employees are in demand.
Vacancies are found in the local press and in trade publications such as Print Week and The Drum (Scotland). There are also some specialist printer recruitment agencies.
Most people enter through an Apprenticeship. Although there are no set entry requirements, many employers may expect four GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3). English, maths, science and technology subjects may be preferred.
Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.
Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.
There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
NVQ's/SVQ's are available in:
- Machine Printing (Level 2 and 3)
- Mechanised Print Finishing & Binding (Level 2 and 3)
- Digital Print Production (Level 2 and 3)
- Handbinding (Level 3)
- Envelope Manufacture (Level 2 and 3)
- Carton Manufacture (Level 3)
City & Guilds also offers a Certificate in Printing & Graphic Communications at Level 2 and 3.
A course designed as an introduction to the sector is run by The Institute of Paper, Printing and Publishing. The ten-day course takes place over ten weeks in London, Leicester or Huddersfield. Students are assessed continuously and are awarded the IP3 Certificate on successful completion.
The British Printing Industries Federation (BPIF) offers short courses in specific skills.
It is important for machine printers to ensure that they keep up to date with changing printing techniques, and that they update their skills in using new equipment and machinery.
Oil Drilling Roustabouts and Roughnecks work as part of a small team on offshore oil or gas drilling rigs or production platforms. Roustabouts do unskilled manual labouring jobs on rigs and platforms, and Roughneck is a promotion from roustabout.
Roustabouts do basic tasks to help keep the rig and platform working efficiently and Roughnecks do practical tasks involved in the drilling operation, under the supervision of the driller.
A machine printer must have:
Machine printers may specialise in a particular printing process. After gaining experience, they may progress to a supervisory role and ultimately may move into management. Those working in smaller companies may need to change employer to gain promotion.
Potential managers in the print industry can join the YMP Organisation, which offers structured training programmes, company visits and networking opportunities.
Institute of Paper, Printing and Publishing,
83 Guildford Street, Chertsey, Surrey KT16 9AS
Tel: 0870 330 8625
Proskills Sector Skills Council,
Centurion Court, 85b Milton Park, Abingdon,
Oxfordshire OX14 4RY
Tel: 01235 432032
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.