Being a printer is a great profession and now that you're in your final year at school it's time to start thinking about what you want to do with the rest of your life.
I know: jobs, huh? Booooring! But seriously, getting into the printing industry can be a very rewarding move. But don't take our word for it! Let's hear from Harry Starbuck - he's been a printer for over forty years. We stopped by to ask him a few questions and here's what he had to tell us.
Hi there Harry. So tell us, when did you first get into printing?
When? Ooh, now you're asking. Must have been 1971... No, I tell a lie, it was the year after. I went straight into a local print firm when I left school. I was only a gopher then, of course; just making the tea and sweeping up as I learnt the ropes.
Hmm, I bet that was challenging.
I'll say. There must have been a dozen guys and it was a bugger to try and remember who had sugar and who had milk.
That's great, Harry. Wow, awesome. But we kind of meant that learning the trade must have been a challenge. But I bet you had a great start, with plenty of qualifications from school and so on?
No, not really. I was thrown out of school for setting fire to the chemistry teacher, Mr Kline. He was a very dry man - he went up like tinderbox. No, I got the job at the printer's because my uncle was knocking off the director's wife.
Woah, too much information! But seriously guys, in spite of what Harry says, those qualifications are important. Yeah, we know - boring old exams, urgh! But they really can make a difference. We can't all be lucky and get our experience on the job, like Harry.
Or like my uncle.
Or like your... Anyway, I'm sure you knuckled down to some hard work. With a little bit of dedication and a whole lot of chutzpah, you must have graduated to the printing presses in no time!
Well, it doesn't happen overnight. You learn one letter at a time, upper and lower case. Then you repeat the whole thing again in italic and bold type. Finally you round off with three weeks on punctuation. In my case it took about eighteen months, but that was because there was a holdup after someone lost the 'p'.
Ha, ha! That's brilliant, Harry.
No, I'm being serious. We only had one of them. This was in the seventies, remember, when many letters were in short supply. Our consonants had to be shipped in specially from Sweden and they weren't cheap. We staggered on with an upside-down 'd' for a while, but it wasn't fooling anyone. Fortunately it was eventually found in a filing cabinet, misfiled under 'Q'.
Ah, the ups and downs of the printing industry. That's fascinating, Harry. But then, after seeing it through for eighteen months, you eventually became a fully trained printer, didn't you?
No! No, I didn't. I may have been competent with English characters but give me an umlaut or a caret and I wouldn't know where to start. To be honest, there was only one guy at our firm who could do those - or at least, he said he could do them. He was injured in a ballooning accident and retired to Penzance, and after that we had to get specialists in from the continent whenever we needed to print foreign characters. That's when we found out that this guy had been making it up all along. He had no more clue than the rest of us. I suppose we should have realised when he kept referring to them as 'weird squiggles' and 'funny hats'.
Well, that's great. So are there many opportunities to specialise within the printing industry?
Yes there are. I decided that I was going to specialise in colour.
Yes. I specialised in the colour red. Red is a good colour to specialise in because it's one of the top colours that customers ask for. Of course, for full colour printing you need specialists in green and blue as well. That's how we were taught, anyway. A lot of modern printers use fake colours now - things like cyan and magenta. What's cyan? Who has ever gone into a DIY store and asked for cyan paint? Who's ever given cyan crayons to their kids?
Wow, well that's a lot of things for us to think about, Harry. So in conclusion, what would you say is the best thing about being a printer? The sense of pride in your craftsmanship? The chance to exercise your skills?
The stationery. Oh yes, without a doubt. You wouldn't believe the amount of stationery that I've knocked off from my employer over the years. You should see what's in my garage. I can happily say that I have enough paperclips to last me for the rest of my life. To be honest, I've got too much stuff, really. You don't know anybody who needs four hundredweight of Post-it notes, do you?
So there you have it. Being a printer is great fun and gives you a chance to provide a real service to the community. Why not give it a go!
Brought to you by the
- National Careers Institute -