1 May 2012

Tuesday night at SAE

I’m a Tom Misner fan. The elusive, charismatic and decidedly weird Misner is definitely larger than life, moreso since he and his creepy cabal of European henchmen trousered 280 million from Navitas after flogging off the global chain of SAE audio schools in 2010.

We had a good thing going on, he would call to boast of something, and sometimes I’d write it up in CX. The more out-there claims I’d leave alone – like when he insisted he was dating Claudia Schiffer. That’s not news, that’s just delusional. Tom is many things, but not a supermodel magnet, even as a magnate with apparently millions of bucks to blow.

He met one wife in the first class cabin of a Qantas flight – and she was mesmerized by the charm factor. At least that’s the way it was chronicled in ‘The Misner Factor’, an amazing book loaded with defamatory putdowns of almost everyone who’d ever double crossed The Tom, or even accidentally parked in his spot.

ANYHOW, it appears Tom is mostly absent from SAE these days, and there is no mention of him in the Navitas public disclosures. The boys at the Sydney college last night were relaxed enough to share some asides with CX about their founder, and even disclosed there were some copies of the book hidden away somewhere, despite the global instruction to find and burn every copy.

SAE Sydney is in Wentworth Avenue, a short walk from Central Station. It comprises a four level building on the north side of the boulevard, and another opposite, which contains the auditorium in which I attended the AGM of the (worthy) ACETA trade association.

Wandering in and out of both buildings were a stream of student types, variously enrolled in either SAE (audio and some media) or Qantm (game design) courses.

“So how did you get the gig?” I asked the senior SAE guy at the counter. “I did the course here in 2004”, he replied. Likewise his colleague was also a graduate.

Which leads to the serious part of this post.

As a former college owner I’m only too aware that the most legally suitable college lecturer is a former student. And the Misner Factor chronicles how Tom expanded his empire from Sydney to more than 40 colleges around the planet, staffed mostly by graduates who ‘understood’ the system.

There are a number of successful SAE gradautes working in professional audio. They are working in professional audio because they are / were the cream of the crop, the dudes who had the right stuff, the right gumption, and the right good fortune to make it. Their SAE diploma was quietly shelved in their hunt for work, because most employers in Australia regard it very poorly indeed.

While it is easy to rubbish an audio education as delivered by SAE and other private registered training organisations or higher education providers, the malaise goes a lot deeper. John Maizels wrote of the skills gaps and the troubles facing accredited training in the April issue of CX. Paul Matthews blogged nicely about this as well.

The bottom line is that professional audio is an industry that does not have a recognised standard or an acknowledged education pathway. The SynAudCom pathway in the USA richly deserves more respect than it has earned. Infocomm’s CTS accreditation also falls outside the acceptance threshold for audio professionals.

Anyway, that doesn’t stop the wanna-be hopefuls from signing on the line for a huge HECS style tax loan to do a course at SAE. Just so long as they quickly understand (read these words, kids) that a Diploma or a Degree Does Not Entitle You To A Job In Pro Audio.



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