Kosema Fuiono is a firm believer that hard work pays off. Recently named the BJ Ball Papers 2022 Apprentice of the Year, he has every reason to feel proud of his achievement. Competing against four other finalists for the title at the Pride in Print Awards in June, Kosema’s tenacity and his commitment to continuous learning shone through.
Emigrating from Samoa as a child, one of the first challenges Kosema faced was learning English at school. Then at 16 years old his father unexpectedly fell ill. As the eldest sibling, Kosema left Avondale College to work in a full time job to support his family. However the desire to find a job which offered him a long term career was always there. Years later when a friend recommended he apply for a position as a print assistant at Blue Star Collard, Kosema jumped at the chance.
Operations Manager Allen Masterson recalls Kosema starting work at Blue Star Collard in West Auckland and how he quickly impressed them. Not only did he take on the night-shift, he also put his hand up to work under one of the toughest printers they have on the floor.
“This guy works hard and drives the assistants hard, but Kosema impressed him so much that he took the time to personally train him.
“That was the starting point of the business recognising Kosema’s level of motivation. He picked it up quickly and was keen to train. We put him through a manufacturing course, then he started his Sheet Fed Offset Printer Apprenticeship.”
Kosema acknowledges one of the challenges of undertaking the apprenticeship was the book work, but he was determined to keep improving his English as he progressed through the units. Balancing work and study with his young family was also testing at times, but he is adamant he enjoyed the journey, never losing sight of his goal to better himself.
“I knew that to complete that journey of a thousand miles I had to take that one step, and that step was to get into the factory and actually start working.
“The team I work with are very positive and management is supportive of us. They had faith and trust in me to run the presses after only a few month’s training.”
The main benefit of training on-the-job for Kosema was being able to put the theory into practice, which is how he likes to learn - even if it meant he had to learn from his mistakes on occassions.
Kosema is now a printer and running the largest offset machine on the floor. His long term goal is to earn a management role - as well as Allen’s ‘comfy chair’, he jokes.
“I would like to be the ‘go-to guy’ — the person people come to for ideas for improving things, and providing solutions.”
Allen agrees, saying they need more people like Kosema who have a future in management, but for now it’s about getting that level of experience behind him.
Blue Star Collard is a commercial sheet fed printer and employs around 90 people. Generally the business always has an apprentice in printing, digital or bindery. Allen mentions they are supportive of training, but the biggest issues facing the trade is people thinking that printing is a ‘sunset industy’, along with the aging skilled workforce they are faced with.
“If we don’t train, we literally won’t have anyone with the knowledge and skills left to do the job.”
Kosema hopes his story will inspire school leavers to consider a career in the printing industry. Humble with the recognition from his recent achievement, he acknowledges how proud his family are of him, and how he feels honoured to be recognised amongst the top apprentices in Aotearoa.
Jadzia Pyne is halfway through her Fitting and Machining Engineering apprenticeship at the University of Auckland’s Technical Services Workshop.
To address our skills shortage NZ’s employers must broaden thinking about who is targeted for vocational education and training and how we train them.