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Education, Education, Education

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The training and educative opportunities afforded to young people looking to enter into the industry seem to be expanding year on year, with greater diversity in terms of courses and modules offered. But is it enough to cope with an economy in dissarray and the shortage of jobs felt across Europe? We caught up with Joan Leese, Managing Director of VET Post production & Training...

BFV: You’ve been working in the industry and with VET for a quiet a few years now - what keeps training fresh for you?

Joan: Everything in our business is moving and changing all the time – that keeps it fresh. People are always different, course content needs to be constantly updated and the mode of training delivery changes too. The developments in online learning and blended learning (part online part face-to-face) have brought new challenges over the last few years. I enjoy seeing those work well. New projects such as In Frame are dynamic and inspiring. We’ve been running a Creative Editing course for seven years - a blended learning module which is partly self-study and partly guided learning. This is hugely beneficial for people wanting to develop their creative editing and extend their skills beyond the functional. Generally these people have good craft skills but may not have the media literacy needed to take that creative step and we open the door for them with this course. People find it very motivating.

VET doesn’t seem like your average training provider. Can you briefly describe your training setup and what courses or modules you offer?

We are unique in that we deliver post production services alongside training so we can share our working knowledge in our training courses - ‘we do it we share it’ is our motto. VET cooperative was set up in 1985 with a clear mission that we still hold today: to provide solid, informed training for people who are making film, TV and video content. We encourage new work and new voices in film and TV, and we give filmmakers and craftspeople the skills they need to develop their careers.
These are things that we think give VET a different ‘vibe’ – we are not solely commercially driven. We primarily train people in Post Production: creative craft skills, technical, workflows and higher-level overviews for Producers and Managers. We teach Avid, Adobe and Apple software and were the first designated Avid Training Centre in the UK. We are still a leading pro Avid Learning Partner (ALP) delivering Avid Certified programmes plus our own bespoke Avid courses. We design and deliver lots of one-on-one and bespoke training too – customised to specific client needs (even training people in other post houses).

Given the expense and time it takes to train and acquire qualifications, do you think that people’s energies might be better spent gaining experience and building contacts as a way into the industry?

It is just not an either/or. To get into the industry you need an education and we really need people who are well educated - that doesn’t necessarily mean a degree. Experience and making contacts generally comes after you have become employable and a qualification shows what you know and the level that you can work at.
There are different educational routes into the industry offering very different experiences and skillsets. Some people get in on the ‘shop floor’ and work up, some get experience and training through apprenticeships, and others go through Higher Education and get work experience at the same time. What gets you a job is having something to offer along with being collaborative, communicative and the desire to be technically proficient. Networking can help make opportunities but you will always need good reliable and current skills.
Many graduates are in principle work-ready but need a top-up of very specific skills training to make them employable. Last month, for example, a young graduate from a respected media degree, who wants to be an editor, came to us for a technical top-up. He had the aesthetic and conceptual grasp of what it takes to make movies, and an intelligence about story-telling and content creation, but needed technical skills. After a short course on current professional practice he will be an asset as an employee. Now he needs the contacts and experience and opportunities to shine.
The news on Apprenticeships is a good strong move - based in the workplace with structured training and paid, albeit at a low wage level, if the training is well executed then it’s value for money. It does, however exclude people who cannot afford to live on the low wage.

Are short courses better value for money?

They are different value for money. People find that the cost and time for focused CPD (Continuing Professional Development) and short course training generally give value for money. Professionals know what they need to know and when they need it. Our courses are focused and directly relevant for people upskilling for new roles or projects.

What do you think about the industry’s agenda on equality and diversity?

A renewed commitment to the diversity agenda is welcome and overdue, I am only sad to be revisiting it again after 25 years. We really have to keep this continually at the top of the agenda if we are to effect any change. Too often it’s the first principle that gets dropped, particularly in an economic climate like today. There are a number of companies and organisations committed to equality of opportunity and since its inception Creative Skillset has actively promoted diversity. PACT, ITF and MITA do a good job of promoting good practice but we need to try more and new techniques.

What would your advice be to someone who has completed their training and gained a qualification, but cannot find a job, or does not know where to look for work?

Just get any work, and decide what you can learn from it – it’s all experience. Our industry wants people who know the world of work. Keep your eye on the main game though, don’t get stuck. If you want to work in post production you may need to top up and learn specific skills to get one step ahead, and you need a ‘can do’ attitude too. If you want to be a director, make stuff. Get to know the Industry. Go to festivals, be present online, go to the many events and shows, find collaborators, engage in forums, read the trade magazines, learn about the companies that you respect and want to work for. Don’t give up – it can take a while. Hope to be lucky.  

Joan, looking into the crystal ball now, and given your 25 years in the industry, what are your predictions for the next generation of people coming into the industry?

The next generation are digital natives, not necessarily more creative but certainly with great cross-platform fluency. We need people skills, client services skills, business nous, and good communication - we always will.
What I want in our next generation of staff are: creative technologists, pro-active learners, visual creatives, ingenious thinkers and inventors, witty story-tellers, creative problem solvers and obsessive perfectionists to oversee many routine but vital tasks. Not much to ask?

The article is available to read online.

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