Machine printers, also known as print minders, operate and maintain printing presses.
Their work involves taking instructions from the pre-press operator and setting up the press with the right materials for the production run.
As a machine printer, your work would involve:
l matching colours to the proofs
l restocking ink levels
l feeding the print materials into the presses
l putting job data into computerised control units
l carrying out quality checks during the print run
l identifying problems and fixing faults
l cleaning presses after a print run has finished
l carrying out basic maintenance.
You would usually work on a particular type of press, but you would train in a variety of printing techniques. These could include:
l flexigraphic – commonly used to print on to items like shopping bags and food packaging
l screen printing – for printing on to clothing, posters or display signs
l gravure – used for high quality work on catalogues, fabrics and wallpapers
l digital printing – using inkjet and laser printing methods
l lithographic – the most widely used method and often used for large print runs such as catalogues, newspapers and magazines.
On large presses, you might work in a team, but on smaller ones you could be responsible for all the tasks on the print run.
You would normally work 37 to 40 hours a week, possibly on a shift system which could include nights. Overtime is often available.
You could work in a variety of settings, from small workshops to large printing warehouses. Your workplace could be hot and noisy, depending on the type and age of the machinery.
You would need protective clothing and equipment due to the chemicals and solvents used in the printing process.
Starting salaries for qualified printers are between £16,000 and £19,000 a year. Experienced machine printers can earn up to £40,000 a year.
Additional payments are made for shift allowances, specific responsibilities and overtime.
With training and experience, you could progress to a supervisory role or production control. You could also move into related areas, such as print finishing, account sales, estimating, buying or machine maintenance.
The skills and knowledge you might need for a career in print include:
l good practical skills and hand-to-eye coordination
l excellent appreciation for detail, design and colour matching
l good problem-solving skills
l the ability to concentrate for long periods
l the ability to meet deadlines
l a willingness to keep up to date with developments in printing technology
l the ability to work as part of a team and alone.
Most employers expect a good standard of general education, such as GCSEs in English and maths, science subjects and IT.
You would also be expected to have good colour vision.
You may be able to get into this career through an apprenticeship scheme with a printing company.
To get on to a scheme, you are likely to need four or five GCSEs (A-C) including maths and English, or equivalent qualifications.
Apprenticeships available will depend on the local jobs market.