Blue Star Collard (Auckland) printer Kosema Fuiono became the BJ Ball Papers Apprentice of the Year at Pride In Print on Friday night.

As the Heidelberg Offset Apprentice of the Year, he vied with four other finalists to claim the title at the Pride In Print Awards gala dinner that took place at Te Pae in Christchurch. On the night, he charmed the Pride In Print Awards audience with a humble, generous and humorous speech, in which he described the “impossible becoming the possible”.

After paid glowing tribute to his fellow finalists and their employers, he warmly thanked his own employers and fellow team members. He said, “I believe I am receiving this award on behalf of the very positive and supportive team of Blue Star Collard and the whole of Blue Star in Auckland and New Zealand.

“Thank you for the opportunity you have given me to extend my learning. I am very blessed to be working with people that have been doing this job their whole life, some 40-plus years, and I am there every day, asking questions.

“Thank you, I’m very blessed.”

Sharing the credit

Interviewed off stage, he said, “It is a very big achievement for me, from where I have started and how far I have come. I am really proud and happy and it is a story I want to tell my kids, that if you want something then you are going to have to work hard for it.

“I don’t like to take any ‘all me’ credit, I like to pay thanks to those who have helped me to train. Without them giving me the knowledge, I wouldn’t be here today.”

He felt blown away by the faith shown in him, including being entrusted to operate a multi-million-dollar press only months into his apprenticeship. He said, “I guess they just liked the attitude that I brought, that I never shy away from a challenge that they give me. I just give it a try.”

While currently operating both a Heidelberg Speedmaster CD 74 and Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 105, he happily helps out the staff in other departments with the likes die-cutting and foiling when needed. He added, “I quite like it because it gives me different things to do and a different challenge every day.”

Having studied to 3am on the morning of being named Apprentice of the Year on the first assignment of an external management course, he said, “I would like to continue working where I am and to keep on learning. If there is any chance of moving into management here, I would really like to take it.”

Generosity of spirit

His trainer, Blue Star Collard operations manager Allen Masterson, paid tribute to the other finalists and said Fuiono “totally deserved” the honour. Masterson said, “He proved himself by starting as a print assistant with us with one of the toughest guys to work with and, even without any training, Sema impressed that guy so much.

“He has the ability to pick up quite technical processes quickly and has actually been the lead printer on a five-colour press for at least half of his apprenticeship.”

He also remarked on Fuiono’s generosity of spirit. He said, “Sema mucks in for the team and is extremely diligent. We describe him as a superstar. We’ve had apprentices that don’t see it as a vocation but Sema, right from the beginning, said ‘I want a job where I have a future, where I can do something for my family’. He has pretty much grabbed it with two hands and run with it.

“From my perspective, being called a ‘trainer’, I’m almost embarrassed because he’s the sponge that sucks up everything.”

Masterson emphasised the need for the print industry to continue committing to such apprentices. He added “Sema and people like the other finalists are the future of the industry. And as I said to Sema, ‘Where you go from here is really up to you’. For our company, it is really great to have someone you can invest that time and effort into.”

All five finalists showed integrity

Ruth Cobb, chief executive at PrintNZ, said even though all five finalists could have taken out the title “with integrity”, Fuiono nonetheless was the standout. She said, “He is a really hard worker, is committed to the business, has a really sound understanding of the print trade overall from having worked in other departments, and he has clear plans as to where he wants to go.

“He always had his books ready for Competenz/Te Pūkenga training advisor Grant Alsop; he always wanted more. An impressive thing he said was: ‘On a bad day at work, I learn the most’. So, when things don’t go right, he figures it all out.”

She noted that he had excelled despite the significant challenges of emigrating to New Zealand as a 12-year-old unable to speak English and then becoming the family’s main breadwinner and helping raise his siblings at 15 when his father was taken ill.

The other four finalists for the BJ Ball Papers Apprentice of the Year

•       PrintNZ Screen Print Apprentice of the Year – Liam Blom, ACI Screen & Print (Auckland)

•       BJ Ball Packaging Apprentice of the Year – Frey Head, Oji Fibre Solutions Paper Bag (Auckland)

•       Trust4Skills Reelfed Apprentice of the Year – John Reddy, Philstic Labels (Auckland)

•       GAPF Digital Apprentice of the Year – Nana Southall, Blue Star Constellation (Auckland)

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