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Print AotY Comes Down To Final Five

A Top 5 has been named for the prestigious 2023 BJ Ball Print Apprentice of the Year* (AotY), to be presented on stage at the Pride In Print Awards at Wellington’s TĀKINA Events on Friday July 12.

The finalists, which have each also been named AotYs in their particular fields, entail:

  • Trust4Skills Reelfed AotY – George Cunningham, Allied Press (Dunedin)
  • GAPF Digital AotY – Anna Hodge, Be My Guest Design (Dunedin)
  • Heidelberg Packaging AotY – Levi Lindsey – MCC Auckland (Auckland)
  • BJ Ball Label Printing AotY – Amit Shankar – Labelmakers (Hamilton)
  • PrintNZ Binding and Finishing AotY – Kathryn Wheeler – Freedom Plus (Palmerston North)

George Cunningham

A kitchenhand before joining the print sector, Mr Cunningham described being named in the Top 5 as “astounding, never having come so far with something before”.

“It’s been such a personal achievement for me,” he said.

“Raising young family members amongst the constant thoughts of understanding something going on at work on the press. I was literally mind blown at the graduation ceremony and just so chuffed when my six-year-old son told me he was proud of me!

“As a parent we do a lot for our kids and I always had hoped seeing his dad achieve would be a big aid in his vision for himself.”

Mr Cunningham expressed gratitude for the support he has received from Allied Press management and co-workers.

Anna Hodge

Previously an accomplished graphic designer, Ms Hodge said she took on the apprenticeship as a personal challenge and to “find some way to diversify my career”.

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“I would describe myself as an introverted-introvert so being recognised for my work in this way doesn't come naturally to me,” said Ms Hodge.

“I am honoured to be announced in the Top 5.”

Ms Hodge said she was now looking forward to finding the next project to “sink my teeth into”.

“I am always keen to learn new skills and challenge myself to see what I can achieve next, whatever that may be.”

Ms Hodge particularly acknowledged the contribution of Competenz account manager Steven Jack to her apprenticeship.

Levi Lindsey

Admitting to not having the “slightest idea” as to the significance of the print industry prior to his employment with MCC Auckland (formerly as Adhesif Labels), Mr Lindsey was humbled by the Top 5 recognition.

“I've always felt like I've put my best foot forward in any circumstance, but it's sometimes a challenge to give 110% when you're your own cheerleader,” he said.

“This award has made me realise the unwavering support I've not only had from my family and friends, my workplace and colleagues, but also from the training industry in particular, with a special shout out going to Grant Alsop from Competenz.

“With what I've achieved thus far I now know that all the sacrifices and hard work have not been for nothing, and that my efforts have been recognised.”

Amit Shankar

A “great honour” and recognition of “hard work and dedication” was Mr Shankar’s reaction to being named in the Top 5.

“It means that my efforts have been noticed and appreciated by others in the industry,” he said.

Describing himself as still “fascinated” by the intricate work produced by Labelmakers, Mr Shankar also strongly praised the company for the priority it places on “collaboration and building strong relationships within the team”.

“They are always willing to lend a helping hand and support their colleagues, creating a positive and supportive work environment. This unique aspect of Labelmakers sets them apart from other companies and makes them a great place to work.”

Kathryn Wheeler

Having come to Freedom Plus from a job at McDonald’s, Ms Wheeler simply expressed “thank you for the opportunity!”

“While I still can't believe it, being named in the Top 5 is an incredible honour,” said Ms Wheeler.

“There are so many people who have also put in the hard work.

“The most enjoyable aspect for me was putting my knowledge to paper and realising that I knew more than I thought. The most challenging part was going to our Levin branch (Graphic Press) and learning how to operate the collator, stitcher and trimmer machines.”

Ms Wheeler also praised the “great team” at Freedom Plus.

“We all work well together under pressure – we all have a strong bond, like a family.”

* 2023 was the year the apprentices completed their qualification and so is the correct date for this year’s Apprentice of the Year

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