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‘Bridging the gap’ between high school and signage apprenticeships

A new training initiative in New Zealand aims to attract high school students into the signage industry, writes NZ Sign and Display Association (NZSDA) secretary & marketing co-ordinator, Melissa Coutts.


nzsda signee

This year a big focus for the association was to raise industry awareness by creating and launching a new platform called Signee – Education to Employment. This new initiative was released to the public and industry in May this year at the NZ Careers Expo and June at the NZ Sign Expo and since has attracted much interest within the industry and the high schools.  

NZSDA Melissa Coutts
Melissa Coutts, NZSDA

In brief, the programme layout will develop over three stages.  Stage One, comprising the basic learning content and resources for the pre-vocational training manual, which ultimately forms the grassroots of Signee.  Stage Two will contain specialist courses for those whom have completed the pre-vocational course and may want to focus on one specific area of sign making, or for those already in the industry and want to upskill their knowledge and skill sets.  Lastly, Stage Three will become the NZ Sign Training Qualification encompassing all of the above to form the six pillars of the industry, represented in design, application, traditional, fabrication, illumination & installation.

The development of this training arm, Signee has been keeping the executive board of the NZ Sign & Display Association very busy, very much so that they have recently appointed a Training and Communications Officer, Carol King. Carol will be ensuring that the development of this programme is completed to a high standard encompassing all general basic knowledge on sign making aspects as well as ensuring that the expectations of industry standards are met by developing a Signee manual for NZ Sign & Display members only.  After a recent survey sent to sign maker members up to 83% see the need to implement an industry training manual and are fully supportive of the Signee programme with 60% prepared to assist financially to ensure that the training requirements are met for the Association’s members.

It is early stages yet, but it’s fair to say that the executive board are progressing fast and with Carol King’s vast training knowledge and the positive support from their sign maker members, their passion is now giving them the purpose to drive the Sign Making industry forward to power their own industry training for now and the future.

The Association also see’s great importance in aligning all Signee training with the current assessment only provider, Competenz, as the Association believes that the Pre-vocational training course will bridge the gap between high school students and apprenticeships.  Not only will the Association be creating more awareness of the sign making industry, but it will be future proofing the industry by offering the young leaners a snap shot of the very diverse industry of sign making.  This programme will be launched into the high schools, firstly in Canterbury and then progressively throughout the south island, and then finally New Zealand by the end of 2019.  With working together with Competenz this is the start of ensuring that the industry is future ready.  

Recently, Competenz with the assistance of the NZ Sign and Display Association completed the resources for the unit standards for apprenticeship sign making course.  This has been a massive project, ongoing for over a number of years, however now complete, will be released nationwide October 2018.  We are pleased to support this launch as we know it will make a difference to the apprenticeship scheme making it more relatable and valuable to today's modern sign shops.

Overall, Signee – Education to Employment along with the successful development of the new unit standards for apprenticeships will add value, raise industry standards nationwide and make the industry future ready for the young talent that will ultimately benefit from the more improved qualifications and training knowledge provided for our modern sign shops.

- Melissa Coutts, secretary & marketing co-ordinator, NZSDA

For more information, contact the association on 0800 0800 52 or go to and  

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