By Pauline Stewart.
Brandon Cooper - Barnett was busy changing a full digital wrap on a car when the informer arrived at Coastal Signs in Lee Street, Whitianga this last week.
We did have a sign in the making to discuss but we were there to congratulate Coastal Signs owner, Darren Hartley on one of his employees, Brandon, receiving the Apprentice of the Year award for 2023.
The award granted through the NZSSA is a big deal and it is for a big region.
“I am pretty pleased about it” says Brandon. I was nominated by my apprenticeship advisor, and then I had to put together my portfolio of three jobs I had completed during my apprenticeship and then write a description of each job and get feedback from each of the clients from these jobs. I also included a video of jobs that I had done. You don’t always have videos, but I had some. You can’t influence your clients in any way; just submit everything and wait.”
Brandon has finished his apprenticeship. This award is only open to those in their final year and those who have recently completed their apprenticeships. We asked Brandon how he had found the apprenticeship - both working and studying.
“I would 100% recommend apprenticeship to other people. I started designing and drawing through school, says Brandon, right here at Mercury Bay Area School. I have always liked design and I was actually doing some design work before I started my apprenticeship with Darren and Coastal Signs.
I have been doing race car designing since I was about 13 or 14 and won a few awards for that and that encouraged me to transition into signage.
This apprenticeship has been very good; it’s a lot of everything. It encapsulates the processes of designing through to manufacture and installation work. You get to practically work with, and understand, all stages of the design process right through to placing and enjoying seeing the finished work on a structure, or car or boat. That’s cool. As well, you learn and practise the basic knowledge of health and safety. You have to work hard though, it’s full time.”
Brandon is the only one from his family in this field, in this industry. “My direct family are all builders. There is one draughtsman, so I guess that’s slightly related.”
The environment of Coastal Signs is full of materials, and a huge variety of colours in rolls. “The main technology we work with is wide format printing and our main tool apart from our creativity, is the computer. These days almost everything is digitally designed,” says Brandon.
“A lot of people have an idea of what they want, and they have colours in mind. We take those ideas, and we measure the scale of what they want and then it is our job to make that happen.
“This is the only apprenticeship I have done but the scope of it provided a wide knowledge. I am equipped with many career path opportunities now – print design, social media design, magazines, advertising in general. I also enjoy photography especially the motor sports photography. My job can also allow me to work anywhere.”
“This industry is changing all the time says Darren. Keeping upskilled is a normal part of our work. We use different vinyls for different circumstances. A van maybe in digital wrap - that’s all printed. We also do quite a lot of just standard colour change wraps especially on boats.”
Both Darren and Brandon bring the award plaques out to show The Informer - very impressive.
“I plan to travel sometime but this is a good place to live,” says Brandon.
“Brandon is the second apprentice that I have helped train and become Apprentice of the Year,” says Darren proudly. “We sometimes get overwhelmed with the amount of work, but there is a downturn since the storm damage and with some roads being closed. We used to get a flow of work from Thames, but that will come back.”
Caption: Brandon Cooper - Barnett and Darren Hartley.