Inspiring youngsters to reach their full potential is what Learn to Dream does with its eyes wide open. Here’s how and why.
Seymour Reeves has a dream, and along with his fellow directors at Learn to Dream – better known as Ltd Ltd – he’s making it a reality. The dream: To inspire youngsters. If that sounds altruistic, to a large extent it is. But of course, by bringing young people into the company’s east London print business as part of various educational schemes, they are effectively showcasing the possibilities of print.
Reeves explains: “At Ltd Ltd we believe that if you’ve had any kind of success, you have a duty to add back into the education system. We want to help tee-up young people for the future, and we’re committed to giving as much back as we can.”
For Ltd Ltd that means having an ever-evolving education programme as a core part of its sustainable future business strategy. The company is now in its second year as a school ‘twinner’ for PrintIt!, a curriculum-mapped competition for GSCE and A Level students to research, design and create print- based promotional campaigns as part of the largest ‘Schools into Industry’ programme in the UK, and developed to draw new talent into the print sector by increasing youngsters’ awareness of print. In its first year as schools twinner, the company won ‘Best Industry Twinner 2012/13’ after a teacher at Newstead Wood School for Girls nominated it for its exceptional commitment in supporting the school and providing advice to both teachers and students throughout the PrintIt! competition.
This year sees Ltd Ltd remain a twinner with that school, but it’s also offering similar support to Haverstock School in Camden and Norlington School for Boys in Leyton. And via another educational scheme called ‘Inspire!’ it is also linking with Mossbourne Community Academy and Haggerston School, both in nearby Hackney. The emphasis in all cases is most definitely on inspiration – getting students to understand what print is all about and letting them use their imaginations to come up with concepts that they can then see go through the process live at the Ltd Ltd site.
Those involved with the company via the PrintIt! scheme are on design courses, and during site visits find out exactly how the design process fits into the larger scheme of things. “We ask them to design a piece of artwork, they then present it our sales guy and explain their reasoning etc, then they follow the process from booking it in as a print job on our system, throughproduction and finishing and finally take it home with them,” explains Ltd Ltd co-director CraigBeecher. “That gives them an enormous buzz, andthat’s what it’s all about – exciting them. ‘Print’ is aboring word. When they come here they realise that it doesn’trepresent what they perhaps thought it did. They see the industry isvibrant.”
Ltd Ltd also hosts work experience sessions, some through the PrintIt! initiative and others via ‘Inspire!’, a charitable education/business partnership supporting young people in Hackney, Camden and Islington, London. It’s a commitment that requires buy-in from the company’s whole team as they all get involved with the students in one way or another. And Reeves accepts that there is a secondary benefit of sorts for the company, in that “you put yourself under the microscope with projects like this so you’ve got to think about what you're doing and how you’re coming across the whole time. That promotes better thinking in-house, about all sorts of processes and methods of working.”
But both he and Beecher stress that it’s not about gains for the company. “Without it sounding clichéd, I think it’s our duty to help youngsters find out who they are and understand how they can fit into a future that is changing very fast. Once you see you have that responsibility you can’t ignore it,” says Reeves, when it’s pointed out to him that this is a significant undertaking, and one not many print companies are prepared to commit to at such a level. “The companies that don’t support educational programmes to my mind come out of two camps: those focused on driving down price; and those doing so well they don’t need to think about the future. We’re not in this for the benefit to our business, but to give back.
“We became involved in education organically, as a result of employees, friends and acquaintances asking us about work placements. It turned out that we had a natural ability to connect with and get the best from young people, so joining an official scheme seemed the logical next step, hence the decision to work with PrintIt! and Inspire!,” explains Reeves.
“In this way we hope to not only give young people an idea of the range of opportunities that exist within this high-tech sector, but help them understand what the world of work entails, how businesses like Ltd Ltd operate, and actively engage them in issues of responsibility and sustainability. And it keeps that continual process going of stimulating new interest for the print industry.”
But you might not be?surprised to hear that Ltd Ltd’s youth inspiration quest doesn’t stop there. It recently got involved in a Dragons’ Den style project put to the company by Frances Shilling, head of design technology at Ironbridge Enterprise School.
Students worked together in teams for seven weeks, adopting roles based on their personal strengths to design and manufacture products suitable for sale in one of the Ironbridge Gorge Gift Shops. The idea was encourage their entrepreneurial spirit, but to also gauge their awareness of business and marketing issues. A team of ‘dragons’, which included Reeves, heard the various presentations before asking questions to illicit additional information and gain a fuller understanding of their products. The winners, whose innovative pot stand won out amongst some strong competition, are pictured above.
“You get complete satisfaction seeing youngsters grow in confidence as they realise their talents and capabilities,” says Beecher. “At Ltd Ltd we want to help them tap into talents they might not even know they have. It’s an ethos we put into practice with our own?staff. It’s important to let people be who they want to be and our people are certainly allowed to move and develop. A couple of years ago Seymour said to the staff that if there’s a job you think you can do, try it. Self-development is important and we get a great satisfaction from seeing people who are passionate about what they’ve found they can do. We’ve found you can actually transform someone by giving them work experience and that matters.”
Reeves sums up the company’s approach: “Your reputation runs ahead of you to tell people what they can expect of you, and hangs around after you’ve gone to tell people what you were like. We are committed to safeguarding our reputation by acting responsibly – with the long term aim of leaving the world a better place than when we found it.”