Screen Printer

The Job and What's Involved

Screen printers set up and operate power-driven or hand-operated screen printing machines to create visual images. Screen printing is used for printing onto fabrics (for example T-shirts), paper (posters), CDs, printed circuit boards or display signs by forcing ink through a fine mesh overlaid with the stencil design. The mesh was originally silk (hence the traditional name of silk screen printing), but is now often man-made.

Screen printers:

  • Prepare stencils (or 'image carriers') for printing by hand cutting, photographic or electronic methods.
  • Manage the selection and mixing of inks before printing.
  • Set up and run printing presses, which can range from simple hand-operated presses to multi-million pound high-speed production presses.
  • Check colour, conductivity, registration and ink film thickness, and make adjustments to maintain efficient production.
  • Dry the printed items by loading them into drying racks or dryers, using hot air or ultraviolet light.
  • Ensure their work area is safe and clean.

Screen printers usually work 37 to 40 hours a week, sometimes operating on a shift system, which may include nights. Overtime may be required when there are deadlines to meet. Part-time jobs may be available.

Print workshops can be noisy when machinery is running. There is usually good ventilation to cope with fumes from the chemicals and solvents.

Screen printers may be on their feet for whole shifts. They require good upper body strength to be able to lift large screens and quantities of paper.

Protective clothing and equipment is provided when necessary.

Starting salaries may be around £16,000 a year. Screen printers can often improve on their basic salary by working overtime. Many printing firms operate a bonus scheme.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Screen printers may work for printing companies, sign-writing companies, textile companies (creating products such as T-shirts, corporate work wear and promotional items), High Street print and design firms, and producers of display items. They may also work for companies that use screen printing as part of their manufacturing process. There are printing companies throughout the UK.

Vacancies may be advertised in local newspapers, on websites such as www.jobsinprint.com, and in trade magazines such as Screen Process & Digital Imaging and Print Week.

Education and Training

It is possible to start as a trainee screen printer without any formal qualifications, but most employers ask for some GCSE's/S grades (A-E/1-5), preferably including English and maths, or equivalent qualifications.

There are various full-time and part-time courses at colleges across the UK. These include:

  • City & Guilds Level 2 and 3 Certificates in Printing and Graphic Communications.
  • ABC Level 3 Award in Printmaking Skills.
  • ABC Level 3 Award in Screen Printing.
  • ABC Level 3 Award in Screen Printing Skills.
  • ABC Level 3 Double Award in Printmaking.
  • ABC Level 3 Certificate in Graphic Printmaking.
  • ABC Level 3 Diploma in Print Media.

More general art and design courses may also include options in some printing methods, including screen printing.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

New screen printers usually work alongside experienced colleagues, with many companies providing in-house training.

Further training is available through the Digital & Screen Printing Association and specialist colleges such as Leeds College of Technology and London College of Communication. Some courses can be studied via distance learning.

NVQ's/SVQ's at Level 2 and 3 in Screen Printing are available, along with a range of NVQ's/SVQ's in other aspects of printing.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A screen printer should:

  • Be able to do practical, manual work.
  • Have a meticulous approach and an eye for detail.
  • Be self-motivated and organised.
  • Be able to solve technical problems quickly and efficiently.
  • Have good sight, hearing, hand-to-eye co-ordination and normal colour vision.
  • Be able to work on their own with minimal supervision.
  • Be prepared to keep up with developments in the industry.

Your Long Term Prospects

With experience, screen printers may be promoted to a supervisory role, such as team leader. Eventually, it may be possible to become a production manager. Sometimes printers move into other areas, such as estimating or sales.

It is possible to set up a business or take on a franchise, but the cost of machinery can make this difficult.

Get Further Information

British Printing Industries Federation (BPIF),
Farringdon Point, 29-35 Farringdon Road,
London EC1M 3JF
Tel: 0870 240 4085
Website: www.britishprint.com

Digital & Screen Printing Association (DSPA),
Association House, 7A West Street,
Reigate, Surrey RH2 9BL
Website: www.spauk.co.uk

Institute of Paper, Printing and Publishing (IP3),
83 Guildford Street, Chertsey,
Surrey KT16 9AS
Tel: 0870 330 8625
Website: www.ip3.org.uk

Proskills UK, Centurion Court,
85B Milton Park, Abingdon,
Oxfordshire OX14 4RY
Tel: 01235 833844
Website: www.proskills.co.uk

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