31 May 2013

Vocational Training and the Entertainment Industry

john grimshaw

By John Grimshaw

Looking at the news out of the world of “vocational training”,  and its lack of desire to support the live entertainment industry, I wonder if it isn’t time for the industry to walk away from the system altogether.

Look at just two of the compromises and outcomes that have been made:
1) We were coming from a workforce with zero formal qualifications, and transferring that history of “on the job” training and skills to a certificate system. That process would alienates all those people that have spent their lives doing the job rather then training for the job. Heaps of people went out and got “qualified”, but then that was short-changed by the next point.


2) Devaluing of the Certificate system. So a person spends ten years working in the industry, and spends some money to get “recognised” as having competency. Great, they now have a Cert III or IV. Then they meet a wet-behind-the-ears newbie with the same qualification, but no real experience. For that person with the experience, the value of the qualification becomes somewhat diminished.  Further, because some RTO’s would insist on providing qualifications for something that they really had no authority to deliver, you end up with people that think they can do things they really should  not be doing. For example, some people have the unit of competency that covers counter-weight systems even though they have never touched one in their lives. Personally, I have a bunch of qualifications, but how do you really know what my skills are? There is no way an intelligent person would look at my Advanced Diploma, and assume therefore that I can mix sound even though I have those competencies.

We all know that this industry lives, breathes and turns on who you know, and how big your last success/failure was. When I started in the industry as a young person in Brisbane, all of the jobs were taken up by an older guard. That meant that to get anywhere in the industry at that moment in time, you had to leave. Unemployment was extremely high, and if you were lucky enough to have a job, let alone in the industry, then you treasured it like gold and worked your butt off to keep it. It was a toughening process, and you learnt every lesson that the day could teach.

That was the only “training” – what you could pick up by watching and listening. There were University options for some that taught technical things alongside their drama courses, and quite a few went through those courses, but nothing beat time at the coal face.


Face forward to today, and it would be my suggestion that the person that does these same things today as I did almost 30 years ago would be better placed career-wise then a person that has gone down the path of getting themselves a Cert III in Entertainment as their starting point.

Back when I was part of the Juliusmedia empire, and we started off that college, we could give a person the basic skills they needed to start in the industry. It was an intensive week of training in either lighting or  sound. After that, if you could get a job at a venue or with an event company, that training probably eliminated the first six months of  on-the-job work for a newbie. It made someone employable, and that was its objective. When Juliusmedia later became an RTO, we bent the course to meet the legal needs of the government body VETAB. Interestingly, in our courses we covered more ground, and more detail in the things we thought were important to make someone employable. Many of these things were outside the scope of the defined “Units of Competency”.

So even back then, we recognised that the Entertainment Training package did not really meet the needs of the industry as we saw it. At that time we got involved in the development of the CUE03 revision. On reflection, that revision was really (in my opinion) a bandaid over a defective system.

When I recently heard about the new work being done to create a new package, that gave  me hope that some real thought was going into what the industry needs. Sadly, apparently this will not be the case.

CX reports that with so few enrolments in the Entertainment package, the people that own/drive the qualification  development process are losing interest in finishing off the new work. If I read it correctly, the new package was being shelved.

Of course the enrolments are dwindling. The industry is not all the interested in supporting CUE03 training or trainees because they are not delivering the people the industry needs. If the employers look at a Certificate qualification at all, then it is probably just as as an indication of basic interest in the industry. What they really want to see is what work has been done and who that person has worked with. THAT is what will land the prospective employee the job.

So, in my humble opinion, the industry should walk away from the official vocational training. Those people, companies or venues that have the inclination and time should invent and deliver their OWN qualifications. Our industry is small enough that anyone else in the industry will know the quality of that training within the first hour of watching the potential employee work. Darwinism takes care of weeding out the crap trainers – and thus there would be a real desire for the trainer to truly define if that person was competent or not.

For anyone thinking of embarking in a career in this industry, get off you arse, and go and physically bash on the doors of the companies that you want to work for. Anyone can email a resume. It is a bit harder to ignore someone with the drive to go and physically find a job. Any employer knows that skills can be taught, but enthusiasm and drive cannot. Accept the knock backs, and keep on going. Remember that hardly anyone advertises positions in our industry. EVERY job goes to the person in the right place at the right time. Always have. Always will.


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