It's the first time SWUG New Zealand has chosen a female 'apprentice of the year', and for Taryn Gannaway it was an eye-opener to see the support women have in the industry.
For the Beacon Print Whakatane apprentice, success was even sweeter by the strength of this year's competition, with committee member Ian Gibson saying the standard of entrants' work examples was "sensational". When he added that the winner had "potential for management" and announced who it was, Gannaway says she was so shocked that "everything from there was a bit of a blur".
"I knew that I had given 100 per cent with my assignments and the entry for the award but I just didn't know what I was up against," she says. "I always prepare myself for the worst outcome so that no matter what happens I'm not disappointed.
"Being female, I wasn't sure if I stood much of a chance, but having attended the conference I realise that everyone is very supportive of females in the print industry."
Gannaway began her apprenticeship in Digital Print Processes in June 2015 and has completed early.
She moved to Whakatane from the Waikato when she was nine, and started working at Beacon Print as a hand collator three nights a week after school at 14. After giving university a try, she returned to Whakatane and went to see general manager Brian Cornes for more casual work... but he had other ideas. "He pushed me to go down to the Whakatane Beacon office and from there I became the classifieds typesetter."
Shortly afterwards she was offered and accepted an apprenticeship, but going through "a bit of a life and work change" about a year-and-a-half later, she left to join friends on a trip to Europe. When she returned, there were no jobs at Beacon, but Cornes introduced her to caregiving at a rest-home where his wife worked.
"I wasn't there for long before he approached me and stole me back off his wife," she says. Her apprenticeship was restarted, and she completed her final seven papers within a year, coming out of her time six months early. "I got my final grade four weeks before the SWUG awards so have now finished," she says.
At the presentation, she thanked Cornes for his support, adding, "I never thought this was anything I could win. However, he changed the view I had on myself and gave me the support I needed to have faith in what I was doing."
Cornes said the main reason he encourages staff to do apprenticeships is because of the structure it gives them: "It also guarantees you retain that staff member for three years, and they achieve a great qualification in the end.
"In Taryn's case, she had left her training to do her OE. Once she came back I had no hesitation in employing her and approaching PrintNZ to modify her apprenticeship to the prepress side."
In his nomination, he described her as "an asset to the business", prepared to work in all areas, such as strapping bundles off the press, feeding the inserter or the stitch and trim machine. "Taryn is often called in outside normal hours, sometimes after 10.30 pm and has been known to arrive in her PJs!" he said.
Beacon Media group managing director John Spring says she is "a great staff member" who deserves the award. "The Beacon has a good record with Matt Lowe winning back in 2010 and Taryn has continued the high standard required to become apprentice of the year."
Currently finishing Level 3 health and safety, she is considering going on to do a print management diploma, but also thinking of a few months off to "enjoy summer and train for the 100km Oxfam walk being held in Whakatane next year.
"Having said that I don't tend to do things half-heartedly so who knows, I may end up signing up sooner. All I know is that I would like to keep furthering my education and experiences," she says.
Sponsorship of the SWUG apprentice of the year award by DS Chemport will see her travel to attend SWUG Australia in 2017, and visit a number of printing industry sites. She will report back on her trip to the SWUG NZ conference next year.