Two undisputed personal highlights of Ian Mean's journalistic career were his run-ins with the late boxer Muhammad Ali. The pair met on two occasions. Once in Las Vegas and once in Birmingham. The photograph above was captured during Ali's 1983 visit to the offices of the Birmingham Mail, where Ian was chief news editor at the time.
Reflecting on his career, Ian explains how training as an apprentice put him on course for becoming a newspaper heavyweight:
I do not believe, and never have done, that a university education is the be all and end all-that you will be a failure in your working life if you fail to go to university.
I also do not believe that an apprenticeship is a dirty word, which unfortunately, many parents believe, not really knowing what modern-day apprenticeships entail.
With the current debate over the affordability of university fees and the burden of debt - possibly up to £50000 that a student could be burdened with after graduating, I believe we must really start to believe again in the lifetime value of starting as an apprentice.
Let me be clear. I am in no way anti-university because I didn’t go to one - both my daughters graduated.
I am proud to have been a trainee journalist.
My apprenticeship journey started when I left a London comprehensive school at 16-having underachieved at my O-Levels.
After writing 110 letters to local newspapers throughout the country, I finally got a job as a trainee reporter on the South London Observer edited by a great guy called Ian MacKenzie, father of Kelvin who later became editor of The Sun.
At the same time, I took A-level English and history at night school and shorthand - I was the only boy in that class much to the amusement of the girls.
I worked seven days a week for that local paper and I loved it - I learned so much about life very quickly. From being a bit of a quiet, shy sort of guy, I grew in confidence with having to meet so many different people.
I moved to Sheffield to become crime reporter of the Morning Telegraph and then to Manchester to join the Daily Mail at 23 years old.
I then worked for the Daily Express, was chief news editor of the Birmingham Mail, northern news editor of the Daily Mail and marketing manager of the Daily Mirror.
And for the last fifteen years I have edited newspapers in Gloucestershire and Bristol.
Just over ten years ago, I decided as editor of the Citizen, that here in Gloucestershire we needed to encourage more apprenticeships.
The initial challenge we set ourselves was for local companies to recruit one hundred apprentices in a hundred days. The support we got from local colleges and firms was huge and we achieved it easily.
The Apprenticeship Awards we set up in Gloucestershire with the Citizen and the Gloucestershire Echo have now been replicated by newspapers all over the country. I became passionate about driving the challenge of recruiting more apprentices in a county where specialist engineering was its very heritage.
Here we developed the first jet engine and since then companies like Messier Dowty, Delphi and Renishaw have become world leaders through the development of their apprentices.
Just recently, I have seen how Stroud and South Gloucestershire College have been setting up their Berkeley Green campus to develop young people as the engineers of the future. It is so exciting.
And over the years, I have presented awards at many apprenticeship events at local companies here in Gloucestershire. To see those proud parents supporting their children who have achieved so much is uplifting.
And apprenticeships are moving on. We now have so-called Higher Apprenticeships where young people can earn a wage and also take a degree at the same time. I was only talking to the Vice Chancellor of the University of Gloucestershire, Stephen Marston about these opportunities this week and was amazed at the breadth of these new super apprenticeships.
I am proud to have been an apprentice.
I believe I still am because in the world of work where we need to constantly upgrade our skills, we will always need to keep learning.
To me being an apprentice is a badge of honour.
About the author
Ian Mean is an honorary vice president of Gloucestershire College, and was previously editor of the Citizen, editor in chief of Gloucestershire Media and editor of the Western Daily Press. He is a Freeman of the City of Gloucester and an Honorary Doctor of Philosophy of the University of Gloucestershire.