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My print apprenticeship: 5 minutes with… Michael McGookin

Newspaper print sites are major industrial operations that rely on skilled workforces to keep them running. We grab five minutes with Michael McGookin, currently completing his apprenticeship at Reach Printing Services’ Glasgow site, to hear about his experience.

By Michael McGookin

My print apprenticeship: 5 minutes with… Michael McGookin
Reach Printing Services' Glasgow print site.

Q: What attracted you to the Reach Printing Services apprentice scheme?

A: Reach Printing Services is a large established national company with many well-known successful publications. After discussions with my college lecturers, I was advised the apprenticeship scheme offered an extremely valuable continuation towards my immediate career goal of becoming a multi skilled technician. Previous RPS apprenticeships have been very successful, all resulting in full time jobs. Reach Printing Services offered an opportunity for me to get involved in a wide range of engineering activities, working alongside very experienced engineers whilst gaining excellent further education.

Q: What were your first impressions of the newspaper production process?

A: When I first witnessed the production process, I was astounded by the size of the operation. There are multiple processes that combine to produce the desired end product, more than I originally thought before witnessing it for myself. From the storage area which houses over 750 reels of paper, the state of the art platemaking department, the printing presses which can run up to 80,000 copies per hour, through to the largest publishing and inserting department in Scotland, the complete process is fascinating to witness. The largest department by far is the temperature controlled press hall. I was taken aback by the sheer size of the four KBA Commander printing presses that are 6 levels high with high-speed equipment being used all through the machines. The press hall also contains a soundproof control room which provides a safe and comfortable workstation for the printers.

I have learned how to understand the importance of working with Safe Systems of Work and Risk Assessments. I was very impressed by the large amount of documented tasks that have been assessed. All of these I can refer to, helping me to work with safety paramount.

Q: What have you learned about sustainability during your time at RPS?

A: During my time being an apprentice here at Reach Printing Services I have learned how important it is to ensure the sustainability of the company and environment going forward. We have a team of technicians maintaining and developing all the high speed equipment required to print a newspaper. Through this maintenance program, we have minimised downtime reducing our production waste significantly. Here at RPS, we are always trying to improve our sustainability. I have been involved in replacing fluorescent lighting with LED equivalent and replacing traditional motor contactors with inverters giving the opportunity to reduce fan speeds, saving 70% and 50% of running costs respectively. We have also been reducing web width resulting in reducing our need for water and ink. The organisation takes sustainability seriously, maintaining ISO 9001 Quality management, ISO 14001 Environmental management and ISO 45001 Occupational Health and Safety management, being externally audited annually. I see this as something that will become increasingly important in the industry.

Q: What potential have you seen for innovation in the way newspapers are printed?

A: In my short time within the industry, I have seen ways the organisation attempts to attract new readers as well as retain existing customers. This includes stitching internal sections, using perforations to introduce pull-out sections and introducing magazines, all produced in-house.

I have witnessed first-hand, developments in the way we produce newspapers here at Reach Printing Services. We have moved away from mechanical components such as shafts and clutches to multiple networks controlling virtual axes. This is a huge improvement as it has reduced the amount of moving mechanical parts, which in turn reduces the possibility of downtime.

Q: What advice would you give to young people considering a similar apprenticeship?

A: My advice, which comes from my own personal experience, to any younger person looking to complete a similar apprenticeship would be to not be scared and go for it, 100%. It has been a great career path teaching me valuable lessons I’ll carry through life. I have been involved in many important tasks where I am allowed to take a lead role. As well as being given continuous support from work colleagues, I also receive support and guidance from my college assessor. The skills and education that you would receive from this type of apprenticeship would easily be transferable across industry. There is also opportunity to progress further forward in your career with RPS as training is provided beyond my apprenticeship.

Q: How do you see the future of printed newspapers?

A: To me it is near undeniable that the future of news / news brands / news titles lies mainly on digital platforms. However, saying this, I still strongly believe that there will be a place and demand for physical newspapers within society. The number of printing factories across the U.K. have dropped from their previous numbers, which has coincided with the rise in digital news. In Scotland, we are the only Reach Printing factory which I believe only helps in securing longevity for the factory.

Q: How would you like your career to develop from here?

A: I will be completing my apprenticeship this year. I am excited and proud to soon be beginning my future as a qualified multi skilled technician here at Reach Printing Services. I am an ambitious individual where my long term goal is to hopefully work in management eventually, in which role I am not totally certain yet. That is one of my favourite aspects of my job being a multitude of different roles available as I progress further down my career path.

About us

Reach Printing Services is the manufacturing arm of Reach - the largest news publisher in the UK. We have four print sites conveniently located within the UK offering newspaper printing services, printing from 1500 copies to millions.



Twitter: @reachprint