If you want a career where you can get creative and use a variety of practical skills to produce a wide range of signage, signmaking could suit you.
What do they do?
The Signmaking apprenticeship provides work based training for young people and adults to undertake key technical and operational roles in the Signmaking Industries.
The signmaking process involves many diverse skills, from computer graphic design through to digital signage and incorporates materials such as Perspex, vinyl, plastic, metal, glass and wood. Various methods are used to produce lettering for signs, depending on the project – for example, computer-controlled routers for 3D lettering and shapes from various materials, cutting and applying lettering or digital imagery to panels, banners and vehicles.
Screen-printing may also be used to produce posters and show cards, while traditional sign writing could involve designing by hand and painting with sign writing brushes using enamel and water based paints. Apprentices need to learn a range of skills including how to design signs; prepare different types of surfaces; cut out and build letters and logos; use digital LED technologies and install signs. The use of self adhesive pressure sensitive vinyl makes up a huge part of the modern sign shop including wide format digital printing, laminating and application of vinyl to various substrates.
Typically, an 8-hour day (possibly shift work). The nature of the work will vary with the employer, but it could involve machining, colour vinyl wrapping vehicles, printing, hand decorating, spray-painting and screen-printing.
What kind of jobs could I do?
Signmakers may do some or all of the following:
- discuss design ideas with clients
- create designs, lettering and layouts using a computer or sometimes by hand
- make neon or illuminated (LED) signs
- put signs onto a variety of surfaces, including billboards, cars and buildings
- seal finished surfaces with a chemical spray and clear vinyl
- clean and maintain equipment
- prepare quotes.
Signmakers need to have:
- skills and knowledge in art, design and layout techniques
- skills in using computers and industrial printers, and knowledge of computer graphic design programs
- knowledge of hand-lettering techniques for traditional signmaking
- knowledge of paints and solvents, and how they react on different surfaces
- practical abilities – for putting up scaffolding and signs.
Signmakers who run their own companies also need business and marketing skills.
How could I get into the industry?
A minimum of NCEA Level 1 is preferred to enter further training. Useful subjects include English, mathematics, visual arts, technology, computing and graphics. Students can also earn signmaking unit standards through the Gateway programme at their school. The standards include both theory and practical components, so students can gain NCEA. Level 2 and Level 3 credits as well as practical work experience.
Source: New Zealand Sign and Display Association.
Does this sound like you?
• English or Media Studies or History
• Sciences or Workshop Technology
• Creative Arts (Visual / Textiles / Graphics/
• Computing / ICT / Information Management
• Confident communicator
• Good at precision work
• Confidence with IT, computers,
• Good at problem solving/creative
• Customer service or helping people
• Making or fixing things
• Selling or persuading people
• Working with machinery
Preferred work environments
• Inside (workshop or plant)
• Outside (outdoors)
• Different places from time to time
• Lots of different places every day
How much could I earn?
$30k - $50k
5 years experience
$60k - $90k
|School||Entry level jobs||Advancing jobs||Senior jobs|
NCEA - English, Maths, Visual Arts, Technology, Computing or Graphics may be useful
|Unit/Achievement standards in schools||Apprenticeship||Higher learning||Higher learning|
What do we offer?
- We partner with your industry association like the New Zealand Sign and Display Association (NZSDA) and members of your industry to help recruit and build talented employees. This support includes promoting careers in your industry, identifying potential apprentices and encouraging work placements.
- We also ensure your industry’s qualifications continue to meet needs, support industry events like the annual NZSDA conference and celebrate your learners’ success as a proud supporter of the annual Signmaking Apprentice of the Year Award.
- When apprentices enrol, we assign them a Competenz account manager. Our account managers understand the industry and the skills learners and businesses need
Competenz manages and supports apprenticeships for the sign making industry via our four year programme that currently incorporates the Level 3 and Level 4 New Zealand Certificates in Signmaking (total 240 credits).
An employee who completes an apprenticeship will have a solid grounding in their trade, knowledge of business operations, problem solving skills and a highly respected and widely recognised qualification.
The purpose of this apprenticeship programme is to provide the signmaking industry with individuals who have attained sufficient competencies and capabilities to work in the industry and help advance in the signmaking industry. Graduates will be capable of operating at an advanced level with no supervision.
Other training options include completing just one National Certificate or a limited credit training program to suit your needs. Specialisations within these qualifications include:
New Zealand Certificate in Signmaking, Level 3
The purpose of this qualification is to provide the signmaking industry with individuals who have attained sufficient competencies and capabilities to work in the industry, either by way of apprenticeship or in general employment. Graduates will be capable of operating at a basic level with some supervision.
It is designed for people who are employed in either a specialised signmaking business or the signmaking division of another business and who are undertaking general production activities in signmaking. The qualification has been developed to encourage learners to train to higher levels in a formal programme of training, and to credential employee capabilities.
It recognises knowledge and skills that will support competent job performance, the future introduction of new technologies within the industry, further personal up-skilling in the workplace, and meeting of customer requirements.
New Zealand Certificate in Signmaking, Level 4
Graduates of this qualification will be capable of operating at an advanced level with no supervision and is designed for experienced people working in the signmaking industry.People undertaking this qualification will either work in a specialised signmaking business or the signmaking division of another business, and will be involved with general and complex signmaking production activities.
Developed to encourage learners to train to higher levels in a formal programme of training (snd to credential employee capabilities) it recognises knowledge and skills that will support competent job performance, the future introduction of new technologies within the industry, further personal up-skilling in the workplace, and the meeting of customer requirements.
This level four qualification has a pre-requisite of New Zealand Certificate in Signmaking (Level 3) and provides a pathway to qualifications in management.
Each training programme contains compulsory modules and optional modules to suit your business requirements. These include:
- Design and layout Vector signs
- Produce images for signs digitally
- Print – large format
- Print finishing – large format
- Write signs manually
- Screen print signs
- Apply advanced decorative forms
- Produce and install illuminated signs
- Produce signs using engraving systems
- Fabricate and install non-electrical signs
- Apply special effects
- Apply self-adhesive vinyl
- Sign installation
You can also choose some modules from Competenz’s digital processes training programme. These include:
- Vector and raster illustrations
- Colour management
- Create simple jobs using digital processes for printing
- Digital photography
- Create and design multipage documents digitally for printing
- Digital printing of client files
Competenz provides introductory and foundation skills training as part of the induction process for people recently employed in the workplace. These skills may include customer service or basic trade knowledge which will help them cement the basics and understand different processes.
Many people have worked in a company for a long time and have a broad range of skills and knowledge, without any formal qualifications. It’s possible to recognise these existing skills which can be assessed against the qualification criteria if the employee meets the competency standard.
NZSDA members also qualify for discounted fees.