jobs4u: Print finisher
Steven Scott is an apprentice print finisher with a printing company that
produces a wide variety of published material. This ranges from books,
brochures and leaflets to stationery, menus and greeting cards.
What does a print finisher do?
Printed material needs to go through a number of processes before it
becomes a finished product. Pages need to be trimmed to the correct size
and shape. They may be folded, stitched together or have special coatings
applied to the surface. These jobs are done by a print finisher.
What happens on a typical day?
I report to my supervisor who gives me a list of the jobs I need to do that day
and the order in which I should do them.
A lot of my time is spent packing finished products into boxes. Items are
counted by machine, for example, a folding machine will fold leaflets and
count them into batches of 100 - a piece of card is put between each batch to
make them easy to count. If I need to pack 500 leaflets, I take five batches
from the pile.
Sometimes I shrink-wrap items to help protect them from damage. That
involves taking a batch of books of leaflets and putting them into a large
plastic bag. I heat the bag using a special machine that shrinks the plastic,
which holds the items tightly together.
Do you work with machinery?
Yes, I operate the die-cutting machine. This cuts card and paper into unusual
shapes, such as folders with rounded corners or star-shaped Christmas
cards. I set up the machine using the correct die cutter, then make sure the
paper is feeding in properly and that the die cuts through the paper
At the moment, I’m being trained to use a guillotine to cut pages to size.
While I am learning I work with an experienced operator.
Do you do any formal training?
At work there is someone known as a skilled observer who is there to help me
if I have a problem. I learn a lot from them.
Every three or four months, I spend two or three weeks at college in Leeds.
The company pays for me to stay in a hotel near the college, but I come home
at weekends. The course covers subjects like health and safety and machine
operation. I am part way through my Apprenticeship working towards NVQ
Level 2 qualification. I want to go on to Level 3 to learn new processes and
how to operate different machines.
What hours do you work?
I work shifts; either 6am until 2pm, or 2pm until 10pm, five days a week. At
first, I though it would be difficult to adjust to shift working but I soon got used
What qualities make a good print finisher?
You must be alert with a good eye for detail as you have to check that work is
correct as it comes off the machine. You should work carefully and
methodically and make sure that you understand the job thoroughly.
What do you like most about your job?
I get on well with everyone and the company is very supportive about training.
There are good opportunities for promotion.
School work experience with a printing company;
AS level in business studies;
Temporary summer job with present company leading to an
Maths, English, science and CDT are useful school subjects;
Phone or write to local printing companies and try to arrange work
Assembler (light industry) Machine printer
Origination printer Packaging technologist
Paper manufacturing operative Printing administrator/technologist
Starting salaries are between £8,000 and £10,000 rising to £18,000 with
experience and training qualifications. Finishing department managers can
earn from £20,000 to £25,000.
There are no formal entry qualifications to become a print finisher, but
GCSE/S grades in English and maths are required by many employers.
Computer studies and science are also useful.
Apprenticeships may be available.
Relevant courses include: BTEC First Diploma in Printing, BTEC National
Diploma in Printing, BTEC/SQA National Certificate in Printing, City &
Guilds (C&G) 5261 leading to NVQ levels 2 and 3 in Mechanised Print
Finishing and Binding or in Carton Manufacture.