Senator Ad 1

Fast Track to Success

It’s a common complaint that a frantic business environment leaves little time for education. We followed BPMA learners taking a new approach to learning.

For many promotional professionals, dealing with orders at the end of an email or phone, it’s easy to forget that there is ultimately somewhere that ‘stuff’ gets done.

As part of the BPMA’s latest fast track educational programme, learners are given a behind the scenes look at what happens at the coal face of branding, with a series of informative, and fun, factory visits.

The idea behind the fast track programme is to help individuals create the time for learning and to deliver a hard-hitting educational punch, explains Daniela Arena, head of education and best practice, BPMA.

“Through conversations with our members, we know that the biggest inhibitor to training staff is the perception that it will take too much time and is costly. We understand that training staff can be time-consuming for managers, so we launched the Fast Track programme to give learners a blended learning experience within a shorter time frame –givingthema start, middle point and end to their particular course.”

Learners attend an introductory seminar, attend factory visits and log into the training portal to study a series of content, before sitting an invigilated exam. Learners are still in control and have to be self-disciplined, but they have the flexibility to study at the office or at home in the evenings and benefit from industry specific training all within a short time frame but without jeopardising the quality of the learning.

Launched in February for its TPM (Trained in Promotional Merchandise) learners, the fast track programme makes great use of factory visit to impart knowledge quickly and practically. The visits are a highlight of the learning journey and complement the content for the TPM level qualification, allowing learners to engage with suppliers, see theory put into practice and gain hands-on production experience.

The first intake of fast trackers was taken to two well-established promotional suppliers, Listawood and Senator, to see what happens to an order. The group visited Listawood’s Kings Lynn plant to see a variety of branding methods such as screen printing, pad printing, etching and dye sublimation, and were able to get hands-on themselves.

This was followed up by a visit to pen company Senator in Harlow. Senator managing director, Andrew Hill, who hosted learners during the visit, says that education about products and processes benefits all parties.

“Senator is always very happy to host the factory-visit section of the BPMA’s wonderful education programme. This intake were all lovely people and were clearly ‘as keen as mustard’ to learn as much as they could whilst they were with us. This type of enthusiasm is infectious, and is indicative of the importance of the education programme in the real-time development of our industry. It was a very good, engaging, day-well done to all.”

Senator’s Harlow base is Europe’s only bespoke promotional pen building. Bringing learners to ‘Pen City’ gave them an opportunity to see in detail what goes on here and what a supplier can do for customers.

As well as being given a potted history of the company – which is celebrating its 35th year in Britain this year -and its products, learners were taken into the production area to see the attention to detail that goes into every order, from preparing screens for printing to mixing paint to specific Pantones,
as well as the growing challenge of doing everything in a sustainable manner for environmentally-minded brands.

During the visit, learners were given an up-close experience of Senator’s production lines to see how many variables staff have to look out for to ensure that every order meets the standards expected by customers. They also saw how the company has honed its processes to ensure that quality remains high. What looks deceptively simple when an experienced operator is in charge can actually be tricky to maintain when someone with less experience takes the reins.

As well as examining the production process, learners were provided with an insight into the other functions of the organisation that come together to support clients, including account management, artwork, and sales and marketing support. Customer service is an increasingly important element of what determines supplier choice, so understanding how a supplier can support its customers is as important as knowing about its products.

The day was completed with a quiz to see how much of the information had been absorbed by learners. Scores were impressively high all round, indicating that the day was as educational as it was absorbing.

What we learned

“Great chance to meet other suppliers and hear about their evolution and learn about their production methods.”
Matthew Metcalf, Headwear UK.

“Really worth while factory visit, has really given me some good ideas on options for these products. Recommend!”
Ryan Finnerty, The TC Group.

“Really informative and interesting tour. In depth and very educational.”
Will Robins, Prombox.

“Understanding how products are made makes it so much easier to communicate with customers and improve their end results.”
Christopher Smith, Vibrant Colour.

The fast track option

Fast track learners have to collect 125 credits for the TPM course before sitting an exam to test what they have learned. Credits were gained by attending an introductory or new member seminar, by attending factory visits, as well as studying content online including an introduction to the industry, screen printing, artwork, origination and proofing, and customer service. A graduation ceremony was held at the RAF Club.

The BPMA is running the next fast track offer on the TPM programme on 22 May, with a joint introductory seminar and factory visit at Senator pens. Some companies are now using the TPM (Trained in Promotional Merchandisecourse) as part of an induction programme for all new staff.

To discuss this further please contact Daniela Arena, head of education & best practice, BPMA –


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