Overview of the role

Assist in the production of a printed product or component.

Details of standard

This standard has options. Display duties and KSBs for:

Occupation summary

This occupation is found in the print and graphics communication sector. It may be found in printing, packaging, creative and design industries. This can include:

  • magazines, newspapers, books and posters
  • cartons, packaging, signs and banners
  • personal gifting, such as calendars, photo books and greeting cards
  • functional printing onto materials other than paper, such as plastics, electronic circuits (to make flexible screens), textiles and a wide range of other materials
  • physical printed security products such as passports, ID cards, banknotes and credit cards

This is a core and options apprenticeship standard. Apprentices are trained and assessed against the core and one option:

  • Option 1: Pre-press operative
  • Option 2: Press operative
  • Option 3: Post-press operative.  

Employers vary in size from small to large. Print operatives may work in copy shops, reprographic units, specialist print businesses or large multinational organisations.

The broad purpose of the occupation is to assist in the production of a printed product or component. Print operatives read and understand work instructions, use relevant print equipment, carry out checks before and during the process. They update all paperwork and check that the final output meets the specification.

Print production is a three-stage process: pre-press, press and post-press.

Pre-press operatives receive customer files and prepare them for printing.  They use a maximum of two software packages. They check customer files for errors. They produce customer proofs, plates, cylinders, screens and electronic files.  They also calibrate print equipment as needed.

Press operatives set up the printing press. They check materials against work instructions. They inspect output at set intervals and report any issues. They clean the print machinery, prepare work for the next department and perform basic maintenance.

Post-press operatives set up finishing equipment. They check materials against work instructions. They inspect output at set intervals and report any issues. They load materials into the finishing machine, prepare work for the next department and perform basic maintenance. 

In their daily work, an employee in this occupation interacts with their team.  They also work with other departments, such as customer services or the sales team, within the business. Depending on the size or structure of the business, they may also be required to interact with external customers. Pre-press operatives are typically office based. Press operatives and post-press operatives are typically located in a production environment such as a factory.

An employee in this occupation will be responsible for setting up and loading equipment ready for use, checking materials or files supplied. They also ensure that all work meets quality assurance requirements and the customer brief. All work must be completed in line with health, safety and environmental regulations and considerations. Where applicable, they may have to wear personal protective equipment and follow workplace safety rules such as safely handling hazardous materials.



Typical job titles include:

Artworker Digital print operator or operative Finisher Finishing assistant Finishing operator or operative Flexo operator or operative Gravure operator/operative No 2 printer Post-press operative Pre-press assistant Pre-press operative Pre-press operator Press assistant Press operative Print assistant Print operative Printer Production worker Studio assistant

Core occupation duties

Duty KSBs

Duty 1 Read works instructions and organise print work activities. Ensure that machinery, tools, equipment and materials are available and report any issues

K4 K5 K6 K8

S1 S5

B1 B2 B5

Duty 2 Select suitable equipment and plan own production activity

K4 K6 K7

S4 S5

B1 B2 B5

Duty 3 Check print work and consumables received. Confirm they are as per job bag or works instructions before proceeding

K7 K8 K10

S2 S5 S8

B1 B2 B5

Duty 4 Carry out basic maintenance of print equipment. For example, calibrate equipment, oil and lubricate machinery

K1 K2 K3

S4 S5

B1 B5

Duty 5 Report issues relating to quality, quantity, templates, specifications, workload, equipment, plans and deadlines

K1 K3 K6 K7 K8 K9 K10 K11

S2 S4 S6 S8

B1 B3 B5

Duty 6 Complete documents and update relevant systems. For example, works instructions, quality records and safety logs

K6 K7

S3 S6


Duty 7 Check final output meets specification and works instructions

K3 K6



Duty 8 Support continuous improvement initiatives in print activities

K4 K5 K6 K9 K11


B1 B2 B3 B5 B6

Duty 9 Maintain and monitor the work site using the elements of sifting, sorting, sweeping, spick & span (5S)

K1 K2 K3 K11 K12


B1 B2 B3 B4 B5 B6

Option duties

Pre-Press Operative duties

Duty KSBs

Duty 10 Convert customer files using software to create a 'print ready' pre-press file. For example, software used may be ‘Adobe InDesign’, ‘Adobe Illustrator’ or pdf workflow such as ‘Screen True-flow’ and ERP system such as ‘Tharstern’

K14 K18


B2 B3 B4 B5

Duty 11 Perform pre checks on files received so that they do not cause technical issues for press and post-press production

K14 K15 K18

S9 S11

B2 B3 B4 B5

Duty 12 Produce a proof for the customer, customer services or other specified person or group

K14 K15 K16 K17 K18


B3 B4 B5

Duty 13 Produce plates, cylinders, screens or electronic files to the required standard for printing

K13 K14


B1 B2 B3 B4 B5

Press Operative duties

Duty KSBs

Duty 14 Prepare the print press for the next job on the schedule

K19 K20 K21


B1 B2 B3 B4 B5

Duty 15 Inspect the output at set intervals. Identify and report any issues such as misalignment or colour variations to the print technician or other supervisor



B1 B2 B3 B4 B5

Duty 16 Clean up and shut down machinery as needed once the printing job has been completed

K19 K20 K21 K22

S14 S16

B1 B2 B3 B4 B5

Duty 17 Remove work from the press and prepare work for passing to the next department. Ensure that all materials are assembled to protect quality. For example, work not smudged and facing in the same direction


S19 S20

B1 B2 B3 B4 B5

Post-Press Operative duties

Duty KSBs

Duty 18 Set up the finishing equipment ready for the next job on the schedule

K23 K25

S17 S18

B1 B2 B3 B4 B5

Duty 19 Inspect the output at set intervals. Report any quality issues such as misalignment or gathering to the print technician or other supervisor



B1 B2 B3 B4 B5

Duty 20 Load materials. For example, flat sheet, folded sections to finishing machine efficiently and effectively

K23 K25


B1 B2 B3 B4 B5

Duty 21 Take materials off the machine as per the defined protocols. Pack or prepare materials for the next department or process as per the works instructions


S19 S20

B1 B2 B3 B4 B5



K1: Health and Safety practice and responsibilities: risk assessments, risk control, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), manual handling and ergonomic practice Back to Duty

K2: Health and Safety regulations and procedures: Health and Safety at Work Act, Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Back to Duty

K3: Environment and sustainability: Environmental Protection Act, consequences of waste disposal (landfill), energy efficiency Back to Duty

K4: Printing and Graphic Communication Industry and its markets Back to Duty

K5: Print industry: how organisations vary regarding their work, culture, values and production processes Back to Duty

K6: Print industry practices and processes: printing, quality assurance, materials and colour management Back to Duty

K7: The end-to-end production cycle, quality requirements, deadlines and targets, performance rates (efficiency) Back to Duty

K8: Works instructions purpose and requirement: the different variables within materials, colours, machine and wastage Back to Duty

K9: Problem solving techniques: identifying issues and developing solutions for print machinery, digital tools and online services Back to Duty

K10: Data security standards: management of information, data and content in line with General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) Back to Duty

K11: Equality & diversity in the workplace Back to Duty

K12: Work area maintenance and efficiency: 5S (sort, set in order (or simplify and straighten), shine, standardise and sustain) Back to Duty

K13: Option 1: Pre-Press Operative. Output image carrier techniques for onward production: print ready electronic files, plate, cylinders and screens Back to Duty

K14: Option 1: Pre-Press Operative. Techniques for the receipt, checking and processing of digital files: print ready permanent data files (PDFs), database, colour and ink profile files Back to Duty

K15: Option 1: Pre-Press Operative. Digital files checks, techniques for solving issues with software and workflow management: colour profiling and data integrity Back to Duty

K16: Option 1: Pre-Press Operative. Proofs: techniques for creating proofs from client files Back to Duty

K17: Option 1: Pre-Press Operative. Calibration methods for proof production equipment Back to Duty

K18: Option 1: Pre-Press Operative. Software packages for pre-press, design or workflow tasks Back to Duty

K19: Option 2: Press Operative. Print presses: methods for the preparation, set up, and shutting down of machinery Back to Duty

K20: Option 2: Press Operative. Properties and structures of materials, inks, toners, blankets, plates, cylinders and the various chemicals required for print operation and maintenance Back to Duty

K21: Option 2: Press Operative. Safe handling, storage and packaging procedures for print materials and chemicals Back to Duty

K22: Option 2: Press Operative. The maintenance requirements and risks for print machinery Back to Duty

K23: Option 3: Post-Press Operative. Print finishing terminology: fold types and ways of conversion of sheets into products Back to Duty

K24: Option 3: Post-Press Operative. Properties of printing materials, adhesives and chemicals: uses and benefits for paper, adhesive, laminate Back to Duty

K25: Option 3: Post-Press Operative. Print finishing equipment, the various types and what it would be used for including any particular safety aspects Back to Duty

K26: Option 3: Post-Press Operative. The maintenance requirements and risks for finishing equipment Back to Duty


S1: Read, interpret and follow information, for example, printing instructions and specifications Back to Duty

S2: Inspect work against specifications and quality standards, for example, works instructions, colour standard, materials or files received Back to Duty

S3: Record information: digital or manual Back to Duty

S4: Follow health and safety regulations, legislation and procedures: PPE, manual handling and ergonomic practice Back to Duty

S5: Follow environmental and sustainability regulations and procedures Back to Duty

S6: Communicate with colleagues: written, verbal or digital. For example, using digital tools such as email, Information technology (IT) telephony, social media, multi-media, video, infographics Back to Duty

S7: Implement solutions as developed by management or supervisors Back to Duty

S8: Identify and report production issues. For example, missing fonts, incorrect materials supplied, wrong adhesive indicated Back to Duty

S9: Option 1: Pre-Press Operative. Select and use software packages for pre-press, design or workflow tasks. For example, MS Office or equivalent, pdf workflow such as ‘Screen True-flow’, ‘Adobe InDesign’, ‘Adobe Illustrator’ and ERP system such as ‘Tharstern’ Back to Duty

S10: Option 1: Pre-Press Operative. Select, check and use equipment for the production of a printed or digital ‘proof’ Back to Duty

S11: Option 1: Pre-Press Operative. Calibrate proof production equipment Back to Duty

S12: Option 1: Pre-Press Operative. Select, check and use equipment for the production of plates, screens, output files and materials Back to Duty

S13: Option 2: Press Operative. Identify and set up printing presses Back to Duty

S14: Option 2: Press Operative. Conduct and log first line preventative maintenance. For example, clean and lubricate printing equipment Back to Duty

S15: Option 2: Press Operative. Inspect the quality of print output during production run. For example, colour management, print resolution and product consistency Back to Duty

S16: Option 2: Press Operative. Follow print press shut down procedures Back to Duty

S17: Option 3: Post-Press Operative. Identify, set up and load finishing equipment with materials. For example, guillotines, stitching-trimming machinery, binding machinery, laminating equipment, die-cutters Back to Duty

S18: Option 3: Post-Press Operative. Conduct and log first line preventative maintenance. For example, clean and lubricate Post Press finishing equipment Back to Duty

S19: Option 2: Press Operative and Option 3: Post-Press Operative. Prepare print material for the next stage in production. For example, palletising; ensuring all material laid in the same direction, boxing, labelling Back to Duty

S20: Option 2: Press Operative and Option 3: Post-Press Operative. Identify and segregate printed materials into those for use in the next stage of production and those for recycling or disposal Back to Duty

S21: Option 3: Post-Press Operative. Inspect the quality of the finishing and report any issues arising during the process. For example, misalignment or gathering Back to Duty


B1: Prioritise health, safety, environment and sustainability at all times Back to Duty

B2: Adapt to changing priorities. For example, working requirements and new technologies Back to Duty

B3: Team focus. Takes responsibility for completing tasks, completes actions within limits of authority without direction and asks for help where required. Back to Duty

B4: Act professionally, for example wears work attire according to the company requirements, respectful, maintains security of business specific and personal data Back to Duty

B5: Self-motivated, manages own time effectively, takes responsibility to complete the task or job Back to Duty

B6: Committed to continuous professional development Back to Duty


English and Maths

English and maths qualifications form a mandatory part of all apprenticeships and must be completed before an apprentice can pass through gateway. The requirements are detailed in the current version of the apprenticeship funding rules.

Additional details

Occupational Level:


Duration (months):



this apprenticeship will be reviewed in accordance with our change request policy.

Status: Approved for delivery
Level: 2
Reference: ST0962
Version: 1.1
Date updated: 04/11/2022
Approved for delivery: 22 July 2021
Route: Engineering and manufacturing
Typical duration to gateway: 24 months (this does not include EPA period)
Maximum funding: £8000
Options: Pre-Press Operative, Press Operative, Post-Press Operative
LARS Code: 646
EQA Provider: Ofqual
Employers involved in creating the standard: Ryedale Group Ltd De La Rue MPS PageBros Oxuniprint BCQ Group Westferry Printers CDi Ricoh Trinity Mirror Graphic Packaging International Bardon LTD

Version log

Version Change detail Earliest start date Latest start date Latest end date
1.1 End-point assessment plan revised 04/11/2022 Not set Not set
1.0 Approved for delivery 22/07/2021 03/11/2022 Not set

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