Blue Star's Fuiono named Kiwi Apprentice of Year

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Blue Star Collard (Auckland) printer Kosema Fuiono was named BJ Ball Papers Apprentice of the Year on stage at the Pride In Print Awards gala dinner.

Apprentice of the Year: Kosema Fuiono, Blue Star Collard
Apprentice of the Year: Kosema Fuiono,
Blue Star Collard

Fuiono, who had previously won the Heidelberg Offset Apprentice of the Year title, charmed the about 400-strong crowd with a humble, generous and humorous speech, in which he described the “impossible becoming the possible”.

Having paid glowing tribute to his fellow finalists and their employers, he then warmly thanked his own employers and fellow team members. “I believe I am receiving this award on behalf of the positive and supportive team of Blue Star Collard and the whole of Blue Star in Auckland and New Zealand,” he said.

“Thank you for the opportunity you have given me to extend my learning. I am very blessed to be working with people that have been doing this job their whole life – some 40-plus years – and I’m there every day, asking questions. Thank you, I’m very blessed.”

Interviewed off stage, Fuiono said he was “stoked”. “It is a big achievement for me, from where I have started and how far I have come. I am really proud and happy and it is a story I want to tell my kids – that if you want something then you are going to have to work hard for it.

“I don’t like to take any ‘all me’ credit, I like to pay thanks to those who have helped me to train. Without them giving me the knowledge, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Fuiono said he was blown away by the faith shown in him – including being entrusted to operate a multi-million-dollar press only months into his apprenticeship. “I guess they just liked the attitude that I brought – that I never shy away from a challenge that they give me – I just give it a try.”

While currently operating both a Heidelberg Speedmaster CD 74 and Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 105, Fuiono said he is also happy to still help out other departments such as diecutting and foiling when needed. “I quite like it – it gives me different things to do and a different challenge every day.”

Having studied to 3am on the morning of being named Apprentice of the Year on the first assignment of an external management course, Fuiono added: “I would like to continue working where I am and to keep on learning – and if there is any chance of moving into management here, I would really like to take it.”

While also paying tribute to the other finalists, Blue Star Collard operations manager Allen Masterson said Fuiono’s achievement was “totally deserved”. “He proved himself by starting as a print assistant with us with one of the toughest guys to work with and, even without any training, Sema impressed him so much,” said Masterson. “His ability to pick up quite technical processes quickly - he’s actually been the lead printer on a five-colour press for at least half of his apprenticeship.”

Masterson praised Fuiono for a generosity of spirit to “muck in for the team”, but also for being extremely diligent. “We describe him as a superstar. We’ve had apprentices that don’t see it as a vocation. But Sema, right from the beginning, said ‘I want a job where I have a future, where I can do something for my family’ – he’s pretty much grabbed it with two hands and run with it. From my perspective, being called a ‘trainer’, I’m almost embarrassed – because he’s the sponge that sucks up everything.”

Masterson emphasised the need for the print industry to continue committing to such apprentices. “Sema and people like the other finalists are the future of the industry. And as I said to Sema, ‘where you go from here is really up to you’. For our company, it is really great to have someone you can invest that time and effort into.”

PrintNZ chief executive Ruth Cobb said even though all five finalists could have taken out the title “with integrity”, Fuiono nonetheless was the standout. “He is a really hard worker, is committed to the business, has a really sound understanding of the print trade overall from having worked in other departments, and he has clear plans as to where he wants to go,” said Cobb. 

“He always had his books ready for Competenz/Te Pūkenga training advisor Grant Alsop – he always wanted more.

“An impressive thing he said was ‘on a bad day at work, I learn the most’ – so when things don’t go right, he figures it all out.”

Furthermore, Cobb noted that Fuiono had excelled despite the significant challenges of emigrating to New Zealand as a 12-year-old unable to speak English and then becoming the family’s main breadwinner and helping raise his siblings at 15 when his father was taken ill.

The other four finalists for the BJ Ball Papers Apprentice of the Year were:

  • PrintNZ Screen Print Apprentice of the Year – Liam Blom, ACI Screen & Print (Auckland)
  • BJ Ball Packaging Apprentice of the Year – Frey Head, Oji Fibre Solutions Paper Bag (Auckland)
  • Trust4Skills Reelfed Apprentice of the Year – John Reddy, Philstic Labels (Auckland)
  • GAPF Digital Apprentice of the Year – Nana Southall, Blue Star Constellation (Auckland)
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