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Sign industry trailblazer group reaches apprenticeship milestone

The first hurdle has been cleared towards achieving a new NVQ Level 3 Signage Technician apprenticeship for the sign and graphics industry. Employers and managers within the sector are now being asked to get involved and help shape the signage qualification of the future.
The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IATE) was launched in April 2017 to ensure all apprenticeships are of the highest quality and deliver the skills that employers need. It called for trailblazer working-groups, run by employers, to demonstrate the demand for a specific apprenticeship for their industry. Each industry group must prove that the occupational skill-set required by apprentices within their sector is unique, therefore requiring a dedicated apprenticeship programme. Earlier this month the sign industry trailblazer group received confirmation from the IATE that its occupation proposal for an NVQ Level 3 Signage Technician has been agreed. This means work can begin on developing the detail of the training standard for a sign industry apprenticeship. Jeff Bufton, head of operations at Signs Express UK, became chair of the sign industry trailblazer group, which is backed by the industry’s trade body ISA-UK, in July 2018. He has worked in the sign industry for more than 30 years, across a range of specialisms, and has also been closely involved with local education. Training and professional standards within the sector have always been close to his heart. “We are delighted to have reached this first, and critical, milestone in the apprenticeship framework process,” said Bufton. “We have demonstrated that the mix of skill-sets required for a successful career in signs and graphics is unique. The fact that the Institute’s board has recognised ‘Signage Technician’ as an occupation requiring a specific qualification is extremely positive for our whole industry and those who choose to work in it. “However, to enable us to develop a standard that the IATE will endorse, it is vital that we now have input from more employers within the sign industry. This is an unprecedented opportunity for people who are passionate about their profession to influence the sign industry apprenticeship of the future. What are the essential skills for a signage technician to enable them to design, make and install signs? How do we devise a qualification that is robust, well-respected and fit for purpose not just today, but also years into the future?” David Catanach is director of ISA-UK, powered by BSGA. “Education, and continued professional development, for people working in our industry is a priority for us as an organisation, hence we are part of the trailblazing group,” he said. “We’re committed to ensuring that the NVQ Level 3 Signage Technician apprenticeship is a practical and aspirational training scheme; providing employers with highly-skilled and professional team members.” The current members of the sign industry apprenticeship trailblazer group are Jeff Bufton (chair), Fay Lea of BAM Nuttall (vice-chair), David Allen of Allen Signs, Linda Edwards of Sussex Signs, David Catanach of ISA-UK and Clive Mitchell of Walsall College. Support is provided by Cogent Skills, a not-for-profit organisation that works with sectors and employers to raise skills levels. “Whilst our core group has done really well to create the initial framework for the apprenticeship, we’re calling for more employers in the sign industry to join us and contribute their experience and knowledge to the development of the new Signage Technician training standard,” says Fay Lea. “To ensure this qualification is valuable and future-proof we need input from as many businesses as possible so would urge anyone who is committed to the future of our industry to get in touch.” The next trailblazer group meeting is at 10.30am on Wednesday 15th May at BAM Nuttall Signs in Winsford: anyone interested in contributing to the project is welcome to attend. Dial-in facilities are available for anyone who would like to get involved but is unable to attend in person.

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