Tasmanians head to mainland for education

Despite being a small, isolated state with a low-population, Tasmania boasts a decent number of printers. Those that take on apprentices however, need to deal with the disruption of sending them off site for training through TAFE.

Previously, TAFE South Australia took on Tasmanian students, but when it sold off its printing equipment and stopped offering Print Manufacturing and Print Machinist qualifications, Holmesglen TAFE in Victoria stepped in.

Holmesglen Institute was recognised by training authority Skills Tasmania as the Registered Training Organisation for print training in Tasmania, following promotion and support from Printing Industries. 

PIAA issued pro forma letters to all printers in the State to express their support of Holmesglen Institute’s application to Skills Tasmania.

As the registered training provider, Holmesglen currently has around seven Tasmanian students, with half in Print Manufacturing, and half in Printing, both offered at the Cert III level. The first year students spend four weeks on campus in Melbourne, the second years three, and the third years are there for one. It is eight weeks in total, mirroring the way the program is delivered to local apprentices.

To ease the burden on employers, and apprentices, Skills Tasmania pays for their airfares and accommodation, also giving the apprentices money for their food and expenses.

All they need to do is let Skills Tasmania know in advance when they will be heading there, which Paul Ross, program director, Holmesglen, always reminds them of.

Ross says, “The ability for Holmesglen Institute to deliver apprenticeship training in Tasmania is a fantastic result for Tasmanian printers. They now have a public TAFE provider with on and off site training capacity for apprentices, as well as the support of fully qualified trainers.

The blended delivery model also features online support. It is a sustainable delivery model, which we believe has proven to be the best option. A fully on the job model sees apprentices only stay within a single company, while this opens them up to other ways of working.”

For Holmesglen’s Ross, there should still be more students coming through, he says, “There are a lot more printers in Tasmania than apprentices, and we would like employers to continue to support training. If they want any more information about courses on offer, we can be contacted.”

Sign & Graphics students travel too

For businesses looking at taking on apprentices in the Sign and Graphic Arts courses, it is a matter of sending the apprentices over to TAFE NSW in Illawarra.

Ian Squire is the head teacher for students taking up the Cert III in Sign and Graphic Arts there, and explains, “Essentially, the Tasmanian employers send the apprentices up to Wollongong, and they come between six to eight times a year. 

“The delivery model is a little bit different now. It is better, they used to come up 3 times a year, but now they are up much more often, following the same delivery model as the NSW students.

“Skills Tasmania pays for the flights, and they get an allowance for their other costs. It is up to them their choice of accommodation.

“We have only started with the new model this year, but it is working a lot better. I think the students get more time, they are not as rushed and under pressure as they were previously. This takes things off the employer a bit, as they do not have to do as much training in their own business now.”

Squire says the campus is looking for more teachers, as it continues to grow its enrollments.

“One of our biggest challenges is getting teachers and qualified staff,” he explains. “We had dramas with capacity, and are now in the process of running our third recruitment in Sign & Graphics. It is hard getting teachers and people that are qualified, they need they Cert III in Sign & Graphic Arts and a Cert IV in Training and Assessments. 

“Now we are starting to move towards where we want to with the people that we have recruited. It has been a real challenge to get the qualified, experienced, skilled people in here.”

Barry Scott, owner, Scott Signs, is based in Tasmania, and has been in the industry for over four decades. He says, “People talk about a lack of apprenticeships, but they have closed colleges because the Government and bureaucrats have not given them funding.

“I can not believe this is happening, how it is happening, why have they taken funding away, and left money to teach nebulous subjects at TAFE.”

Though Scott has employed apprentices over his years, after getting his break into the industry through an apprenticeship, not everyone does. He says, “A lot of people aren’t interested in apprentices, they find them a pain in the butt. There is a market of people out there working now, it is hard to get a good apprentice but they are out there.

“I have a girl coming here at the moment, I met her when she was 15 at an employment seminar. I was so impressed by her, and she is now here on a VET apprenticeship. She is 16, comes across like a 20 year old, and is great with Photoshop, and works practically with her hands.

“Her parents supported her to get an apprenticeship. In three years time she’ll be on $1000 a week. In Tasmania that is good money. 

“I do not think there has been enough promotion in schools to go into a trade. People are convinced that they should do their HSC instead, and by 18 they can drink, go to a pub, and drive cars, and their aspirations for money are more.

“It is about bums on seats to get funding. They tell kids at school to do jobs in graphic design. They do not understand what production is about, they are driven to be ‘graphic artists.’

“But they are walking around starving, working at McDonalds.”

The head of the Australian Sign Graphics Association (ASGA), Michael Punch, is trying to give Tasmanians more choice in where they do their apprenticeship, hoping to reinvigorate the Cert III at Victoria University Polytechnic, another TAFE provider in the state. 

“We are trying to increase the numbers in the system, but in the past 2-3 years, it has been a contract Skills Tasmania has had with TAFE Illawarra. 

“I am trying to resurrect the link to Polytechnic Victoria, they stopped having a Tasmanian cohort, but the plan is for that to be picked up again.

“I am helping them to get the delivery units and equipment back on track, so they can deliver sign and graphics qualifications for Tasmanians there.

“There have 80 students across the three stages, but I want to get the Tasmanian cohort there, as it is easier to travel there compared to Illawarra. 

“If we can get them linked up with Skills Tasmania, and ticked off as a place of delivery, then we will try to promote it, and get more students and others interested in it.

“It is a strong qualification, the signage industry is not well known sadly by students, parents, career advisors, but they know plumbers, carpenters, because they call them into their homes all the time.

“Unfortunately people do not understand that each sign they see has been put up by a technician.

“Without signs, Australia would be chaos. It is creative, imaginative work, where you also work with your hands helping to fabricate signs, and then installing them. It is a terrific trade, and I say that as a former teacher.”

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