Pride In Print Winners Announced: Apprentice of the Year, Training Company of the Year & Trainer of the Year

Winners Awarded at the 2023 Pride In Print Awards
26 June, 2023

Catriona Mellows bestowed Print Apprentice of the Year 

Display Associates head graphic designer Catriona Mellows was tonight named BJ Ball Papers Print Apprentice of the Year at the 2023 Pride In Print Awards.

Ms Mellows, who had previously been named the joint Digital Print Apprentice of the Year, received her award before an enthusiastic audience of over 500 at Auckland’s Cordis Hotel.

Clearly humbled by the honour, she warmly thanked all parties.

“If you had told me six years ago, when I started my job as a ‘lacky’ that I would be up on stage, I wouldn’t believe you – not only that, but I won an award!,” she enthused.

“Thank you not only for this amazing honour, but for the career, for letting me earn a wage while learning so I could buy my first home with my partner, for igniting that creative spark in me that has made me the person I am today.

“Thank you to Display Associates for the huge risk you took with a 20-year-old whose only credentials where ‘she was good at art at high school’. Thank you so much, it has been incredible!”

Ms Mellows also paid tribute to the Display Associates team, which she described as a “family”.

“My boss, Blair Symes, took me onboard just on the word of his mother, Dorothy, who saw a creative spark in me.

Dorothy originally started Display Associates back in 1975 hand-painting signs and eventually moved into screen print. Nearly 50 years later, her son Blair is now running the business and screen-print is only a fraction of what we do.

“I feel like it’s not just me who has won this award but all of us, because everyone was only too willing to help me. Every Friday at 5pm we gather round the applicating table with a beer in hand and share ideas and, if we’re lucky, Dorothy will come down with cheese rolls!”

Looking ahead, Ms Mellows says she is excited to be continuing to grow and expand in her career.

“I started out as a general lacky and am now very proud to be the head graphic designer. I have the exiting opportunity to move from trainee to trainer as we have just hired a young girl out of high school.

“I hope she will follow in my footsteps and start her own apprenticeship very soon. I would be honored to be able to coach and teach her through this and give her the same chance and opportunities my supervisor once gave me.

“I am also very excited to be starting the Diploma in Print Management and I hope to gain more insight into how running a print business works. My absolute dream would be to have my own print business where I could focus on designing and creating my own brand.”

Having worked with a number of designers over the past 30-plus, Display Associates manager Blair Symes says Ms Mellows – who is also his firm’s first employee to complete an apprenticeship – has impressed with a constant positivity and maturity above her years.

“The sign and display industry, with the time constraints involved at times, can be a fair bit of pressure for results but she applies the same passion for the design whether she is working with a one-man tradie wanting a new logo for his little business or dealing with the chief executive of a company wanting to rebrand,” says Mr Symes.

“Cat’s positivity – and alternative sense of humour – are a real boost for our company.

“She is currently training a new design cadet and doing a great job. Sharing her experience of her apprenticeship with the other staff has inspired another staff member to enquire about taking one on.

“When any future potential apprenticeships candidates start, I will always reference how Cat completed hers.”

Congratulating Ms Mellows, PrintNZ chief executive Ruth Cobb emphasised that print remains a “craft”.

“I get reminded of that every time we do our Print Apprentice of the Year interviews and they talk in such technical and passionate detail about their jobs,” said Ms Cobb.

Ms Cobb emphasised the need for print industry companies to commit to training, noting “we need to grow our own”, in response to labour and skills shortages.

She added that PrintNZ was also actively monitoring and adapting its approach to training requirements as those continued to evolve under Government direction.


Prestigious PrintNZ Awards

Also bestowed at the 2023 Pride In Print Awards Evening were the following prestigious PrintNZ Awards:

  • Business Awards – Wellness & Sustainability, Excel Digital
  • Trainer of the Year – Wade Collins, Sealed Air
  • Training Company of the Year – Blue Star Jackson

Additionally, Business Awards Gold Medals were presented as follows:

  • Wellness – Amcor
  • Sustainability – Excel Digital
  • Wellness – Excel Digital
  • Sustainability – GratPak
  • Wellness – Kale Print


For further information please contact PrintNZ chief executive Ruth Cobb,, 027 248 9404.