July 1, 2008

The Next Wave of British Print Talent

By Anonymous

Heaps of enthusiasm and a ringing endorsement spurred this year's event to new heights Think of Stationers' Hall and you'd be forgiven for associating it with some of the stuffier ceremonies in print's calendar. You certainly wouldn't expect to hear the Arctic Monkeys and The Kooks blasting over the loudspeakers. But two weeks ago, that's exactly what happened when the PrintIT! Awards ceremony - and almost 100 schoolchildren - arrived at the hallowed livery company.

The pupils were there to hear who had won what has become one of the biggest school competitions in the UK. For this, its third year, more than 23,000 GCSE art and design pupils took part in the PrintIT! scheme from more than 570 schools across the country. The scheme was founded by kit manufacturers' association Picon - which passed the reins over to sector skills council ProSkills a year ago - to make young people enthusiastic about the many careers available in print. Judging by the reactions of the students to winning their awards, not to mention the quality of their entries, that aim has been more than achieved. Gasps and even a few cheers accompanied the announcements of the winners. And, as Stephen Falder, chairman of ProSkills, pointed out on the day, the standard of entries was better than ever.

To participate, students follow a syllabus in which they have to design a print-centric campaign to promote The Fairtrade Foundation, the organisation that promotes equitable working practices with farmers in developing countries. These can be posters, table talkers, leaflets or any number of other products. Pupils also learn about print processes.

This year's overall winner, Alex Robertson, won the honour for designing and building a beautiful table talker (pictured above). For her labours, she and her teacher have won a trip to St Lucia to see Fairtrade farming in action, as well as taking part in a number of media appearances.

Printers, too, can get involved through the PrintIT! twinning scheme. This year's top Twinner was Berkshire-based Printroom. Sales director Simon Lewington visited a number of schools in the area to discuss the industry. He believes that the scheme can help printers to identify young talent: "It's helped us develop contacts with motivated young people who could join our team in the future," he says.

Perhaps most exciting for the pupils, though, was a little bit of celebrity recognition. George Alagiah OBE, the BBC newsreader who is patron of The Fairtrade Foundation, was on hand to present the awards. Even better, the scheme has won recognition at 10 Downing Street; a letter from Gordon Brown congratulating all the students was read out at the event.

So while some areas of print may be struggling, PrintIT! paves the way for young people to get fired up about print and, with luck, decide to pursue a career in this vibrant, creative and challenging sector.

Above: Alex Robertson picks up her award. Left: The PM acknowledges the good work


Overall winner of PrintIT! 2007/8

Alex Robertson, Bispham High Schools Arts College, Blackpool, and teacher Alison Yates

Category winners

Best Poster Stephen Partington, Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar School, Lancashire

Best Table Talker Alex Robertson, Bispham High School & Arts College, Blackpool, Lancashire

Best 'Free' Design Billy Joe Poole, Sandwich Technology School, Sandwich, Kent

Best Use of Brand across the Range Sarah Edmondson, Katie-Louise Wire, Amy Pearson, Keswick School, Keswick, Cumbria

Best Understanding of Printing Techniques

Beth Goddard, Nottingham High School For Girls, Nottinghamshire

Best Use of Materials Daniel Carter, Altrincham College of Arts, Altrincham, Cheshire

Best Overall Presentation Jack O'Brien, Adam Spivey, Alex Walsham, George Farmer Technology College, Spalding, Lincolnshire

Best Understanding of Environmental Concerns Stacey Barry, Aylesbury High School, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire

Special awards

Best Industry Twinner The Print Room, Bracknell, Berkshire

Best Teacher Daniel Currigan, Tiffin Girls' School, Kingston, Surrey

Best Overall School Effort Beauchamp College

Best PrintIT! Student Karen Sanders, Queen Elizabeth's Community College, Crediton, Devon

Copyright Haymarket Business Publications Ltd. May 8, 2008

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