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How to Learn By Doing

Written by Norman Pierpoint Posted in Education and Learning

How to Learn By Doing

I left school with one qualification in art. The teachers were surprised I didn’t do better. The one thing I enjoyed was the printing club run by the art teacher who encouraged me. To see an image reproduced was magic to me and it gave me the idea to get into the printing industry when I left school.

There are many forms of printing: lithography, letterpress, silkscreen, gravure, and lots of different trades within. At the time I didn’t know what the differences were or how big the printing industry was but it would become something that attracted me to the industry and would encourage me to make a dream a reality.

One of my friends who knew I was keen to get into print informed me of someone he knew who had information about an apprenticeship as a lithographer.

I managed to contact the company and get an interview. I was asked to bring along my artwork from school.  Somehow I was offered the five year apprenticeship as a Lithographic Retoucher  working on photographic  images,  preparing them for the printing press. Using handcraft skills, working to fine margins, assessing colour values and then watching your work printed was interesting and satisfying.

I went to college at the Elephant and Castle Printing College one day a week to understand the whys and hows of the printing process.

I started slowly, making the tea and cleaning up but I gradually learned the trade, making mistakes on the way, and learning to respect the highly skilled men who were training me.

My journeymen at work who trained me were interesting people who patiently trained me in the skill of retouching images on film to match the original artwork. Understanding colour values, and how cyan, magenta, and yellow and black can make all the colours was a learning curve for me.

I worked in a commercial, profitable industry working to deadlines and to customer requirements.

The day came when I was “banged out” with another apprentice, and wet through with old printing ink thrown over us, we were ceremoniously dumped in an Essex high street.

We could now start earning the real money as fully fledged journeymen.

Since that time the digital age has computerised many hand craft skills and changed the way of working in many industries. But apprenticeships are still with us – although shorter (no longer making tea for two years) and still proving to be a successful way of training and gaining qualifications.

I am always amazed at the wide range of apprenticeships available. Learning on the job is still the best way to learn - after all thirty million drivers learned to drive a vehicle by driving.

Looking back I had the desire to get into a particular industry, I took the opportunity that came my way, and persevered with the training. It gave me another twenty years as a lithographer to support my family. 

A good place to start is to find out what really interests you and then explore the different routes into that occupation. Once you find out what you are good at, and learn through doing the skills and expertise you gain from this really can take you anywhere.

I am thankful for my apprenticeship and the training I received.

About the Author

Norman Pierpoint

Norman Pierpoint

Born in Essex and raised in Basildon, for the last twenty years, Norman has worked with young people in Suffolk and Norfolk. He enjoys writing songs and was a professional photographer. He is keen to see young people make their way in the world through education, qualifications and employment, and he believes in dreams.

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