22 Sep 2012

NIDA and the Cost Of Training

Chris Puplick lashed NIDA in an essay where he accused the head as being ‘Thatcherite’. This was to compare Lynn Willians with Tory leader Margaret Thatcher who was once described as adopting male aggression to rule the UK.

The NIDA debate caused media to cost the outcomes, with 40 student graduates against the $12 million annual budget. Famous knockbacks at audition include High Jackman and Georgie Parker, who went on to do well.

Theatre artistic types rushed to defend NIDA saying while an academic qualification was not a prerequisite to success on stage, it sure could help.


“A slight irony that technical production crew joke endlessly about the talent being clueless prima donnas and have so little awareness of their own bitchy competitiveness”, Delon Price commented on CX Facebook. While in reference to an item on a lightie feud, it spells out the fickle pressure of fame, where even the crew are perceived to be against The Talent.

Winners of the latest crop of Talent Shows, “Australia’s-Voice-X-Idol-Factor ” take note. Australian Idol generated 1.5 careers – Guy Sebastian (1 career) and Shannon Noll (0.5 career) across seven series. With 12 finalists in each!

Three shows in Australia this year each makes 10 or 12 kids into household names for at least a few weeks – but then they fade away.


Julius College produced several hundred technical graduates over 7 years and despite weekly sermons on how a qual was just a ticket to learn, many barged out demanding jobs that were not available on their terms. The guys and girls with ‘the right stuff’ are working in the industry, but most grads moved along.

Exit interviews showed half the graduates intended to either do further study, or travel. Half of all enrolled completed and graduated, so allowing for the above, only 25% of those who started the year were then looking for work as a qualified graduate at the end. And a good number of these required ‘attitude adjustment’ before being suitable for employment. We saw just 12.5% of enrolments become successful in the technical community.

Looking across the whole training landscape, with thousands of kids enroled in SAE, JMC and AIM courses, hundreds in the Uni colleges like NIDA, WAAPA, VCA and Flinders and scores in TAFE courses, what is the cost? Assuming they introduce 12.5% of their graduates to work – and we know they do not.

One of the best technical courses in Australia is the TV production degree at Charles Stuart Uni in Wagga Wagga. They regularly find employment for their better grads, yet they struggle for enrolments against the slew of providers named above.

Producers and Directors care not for qualifications, what they want is the bling and dazzle, the glint in the eye and the magic.

Production Firms and Tech Managers want certainty, good attitude, proven professional skills, and reliability.

You don’t get any of the above from a qualification.

The one constant across the stage and backstage is that it is hard to get a gig unless you have a good reputation, and are in the right place at the right time.

So what is the national cost of training, against the employment outcome? Anyone know?


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