He's 19 and redundant: job loss closes door on aspirations

Employed for just one year and two months, 19-year-old Jake Gonzalez has been made redundant.

A digital printing trainee at Focus Press's Kemblawarra plant, Mr Gonzalez was among "40 to 50" Illawarra employees given the sack on April 16 after the company sold its facilities in Wollongong, Canberra and Sydney.

He said he first became aware of troubles at the company on April 11.

"Basically, the manager of our plant came down and got everyone together as a group and said the plant was up for sale, and if someone buys it we may or may not have a job," Mr Gonzalez said.

"And then someone did buy it, but from April 16 we were all made redundant."

That someone was reportedly BPA Print Group boss Mark Shergill. The acquisition came with the closure of the company's Wollongong and Matraville facilities.

Once touted as one of the country's leading providers of printing and communications services, Focus Press received a $6.1 million federal government grant in 2012 to help it take on local trainees in Wollongong.

Mr Gonzalez said those trainees were now also out of a job, and he had been made aware Focus Press was in considerable debt.

He said April 11 was the first anyone had heard about the company potentially being sold, and the announcement took many by surprise.

"From what we knew, the plant was still going to continue running," Mr Gonzalez said.

"The senior managers at the Wollongong plant didn't even know - they were left in the dark as well."

Despite Sydney-based staff continuing to answer company phones, Focus Press did not respond to the Illawarra Mercury's requests for comment.

The company's website continues to advertise its services at all four facilities, and describes itself as "an Australian-owned, award-winning company".

Mr Gonzalez said he was now planning to leave the industry, and potentially move away from Wollongong in search of work.

"There's no other opportunity, because there's nothing really down here," he said.

"I'd like to stay local . . . I don't really want to get back into the printing industry. It's a dying industry. Several people have told me not to get back into it."

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