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Look north

Why Your Print Specialists has joined print companies as a learning partner at project-based Studio West Newcastle. Should you do likewise?

“It is important that we share the experience of our sector and make the younger generation more aware of the exciting opportunities available within it." So says Garry Brown, managing director of Your Print Specialists (YPS) which has become a ‘learning partner’ at a pioneering project-based educational establishment called Studio West Newcastle, and is eager for others to follow suit.

Tyne-and-Wear based YPS got involved with Studio West after installing a wide-format inkjet printer and laser-engraver into the school, which is really more akin to a workplace than a school and has been inspired by High Tech High in California, aiming to build confidence, team-working and communication skills for 13 to 19 year olds by combining subjects together into project-based learning and implementing new teaching methods.

Working closely with external businesses is crucial to the success of the projects, as principal designate Val Wigham explains: “Having businesses partnering with Studio West ensures the students are working on relevant, real-life projects that will equip them with the skills and knowledge they need to move onto an apprenticeship, employment or university. By working with businesses from a wide selection of industries we can match students to the projects appropriate for their required learning experience and strengths.”
Studio West, which had its first intake of students in September 2014 and is constantly recruiting businesses to provide work placement opportunities and real life projects across a variety of market sectors, impressed Brown with its ethos.

“I really applaud this innovative vocational approach to development of young people. It is a new concept in education seeking to address the growing gap between the skills and knowledge that young people require to succeed in the outside world, and those that the current education system provides,” he says.

“Prior to this I had become increasingly frustrated at the seemingly lack of opportunities for young people to not only gain knowledge of our industry but to make all stakeholders aware of the need to address the skills shortage within the wide-format sector.”

Brown explains that when approached by Studio West for equipment to ‘kit out’ its studio, “we got into discussing how we at YPS have to tried to engage providers in the North East of England, local colleges, the connexions programme and various apprenticeship open day events without success.”

He adds: “I am very keen to raise aspirations and improve the engagement of young people through increasing the relevance of learning, and I applaud the Studio West model to help engage youngsters and offer insight to new job opportunities and career decision making.”

YPS now operates a work experience programme with Studio West, and with six other local schools and colleges. But there’s more to come. “I am currently setting up tutorials and presentations with Studio West in order to help students realise the relevance of their education and training, and also provide an insight into the skills and qualities that employers such as myself, are looking for in young people,” explains Brown. “We’ve got a vast amount of knowledge within our team at YPS and we want to do our bit to preserve the future of print.

“We have engaged consultant support to help us set up a programme to accommodate the need of employers, providing the vocational pathways for young people into employment. And I am particular keen, along with a number of partner organisations to provide traineeships and apprenticeship opportunities in the very near future. Although it is early days I am passionate about the need to set up a work-based training facility here in Newcastle.”

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