Latest News

Time for ‘radical’ new print training model

Wednesday, 05 April 2017
By James Cryer

James Cryer jumps on the educational band-wagon and waves the flag for the printing industry to create its own course – designed to attract school-leavers (and others) by pointing out all the marvellous career opportunities which now exist in print. To this end, he is supported by the PIAA, via the initiative of the new CEO, Andrew Macaulay, who is already reaching out to state and federal education ministers, seeking their support for such an initiative.


 We’ve all watched with a mixture of horror, despair and sadness as our primary means of delivering technical skills and training to our industry, i.e., the TAFE system, has slowly been strangled to death by successive state governments while the feds quietly looked the other way.

This will be one of those seminal moments, when we look back at history, and ask the question: why? Without going into boring detail, these things are usually the result of various factors all occurring together: government short-sightedness and incompetence creating a void which is then filled by dodgy operators using unscrupulous means to rip off unsuspecting, often young and unsophisticated students, aided and abetted by a lax compliance regime.

'The time is ripe': James Cryer, JDA Recruitment

I’d go so far as to say that various NSW and Victorian state governments (of both persuasions) would be guilty of criminal negligence if they were individuals, such is the depth of destruction perpetrated upon our former (and not perfect) TAFE system.

For the last few years I’ve looked on with increasing despair, like watching a train-wreck, as more and more examples of millions (maybe billions?) of dollars were paid by our governments to dodgy operators, who were able to deliver virtually non-existent courses to often vulnerable ESL students, with virtually no over-sight or compliance requirements. This, sadly, is symptomatic of Australia’s very weak ”watchdog” culture.

Many of these scammers have made small fortunes and have probably absconded, some are now being rounded up ‘after the event’ and one can only hope that justice will prevail – although I suspect we can kiss goodbye to 95% of the money which has virtually been tipped down the drain, courtesy of our non-accountable public service attitude.

Why am I telling you this? And why am I working myself into a frazzle?

They say from the depths of despair emerges the light at the end of the tunnel … or something like that.

A new print course rising from the ashes …

The time is ripe for our industry – and by that I mean offset, digital, packaging, signage – and all the other strands that go to make up the marvellous tapestry of ”print” – to work together to create our own, tailor-made, custom-built curriculum.

Before you start complaining that we already have several apprentice-based schemes – I’m not talking about that.

Let us back-track: the last few years have also seen a quiet revolution, where the demand for ”factory-floor” staff has diminished, and the demand for other ”white-collar” roles (for want of a better word) has increased … no, skyrocketed!

I hardly ever get asked for an ”apprentice”. I do get asked for customer service reps, account managers, sales reps and a whole raft of client-facing roles – plus people with procurement, logistics, software or IT skills.

Spot the apprentice? Doesn’t happen. So why are we training them? – let Heidelberg do that. (That’s actually a compliment to Heidelberg: Qantas and Virgin do a far better job than any government institution in training all their engineers!)

And any aspiring digital operator (or finisher) doesn’t regard themselves as an apprentice anyway, a term that should be consigned to the dustbin of history.

The point is (now pull your chairs in closer …) young people today, do not want to acquire a specific skill (like bricklaying or printing) they want to be inspired by what opportunities lie within an entire INDUSTRY! This idea lies at the very core of the kind of course which we could, now, very easily roll out.

At this juncture, I must point out that I didn’t originate this idea. I’ve started to see it happening across other industries: the marina industry now offers a course (yes, it includes how to throw ropes) but also paints a picture of maritime law, marine navigation, logistics, marine engineering, etc. Why? Because they couldn’t attract school-leavers who want a career – not a trade! (Sound familiar?) Who knows, young what’s-his/her-name may start out throwing ropes over bollards and end up managing a string of marinas – or designing wave-piercing catamarans.

It’s all about careers, not skills …

Industries are (or can be) quite exciting ”things” if only we’d present the long-term opportunities – and not just the narrow, basic ”skills”. And print is now one of (if not the most) exciting industry to be in: it’s clean, creative, and more roles are computer-based, often in modern air-conditioned offices, dealing with well-known brands and assisting with their corporate communications – it doesn’t get any better than this. (It does, actually, see below) …

Now here’s the kicker: this course may be regarded as a broad-based ”Introduction to the Printing Industry”, and as such will provide an array of appetite-whetting subjects. But first it must ”paint a picture” of what our industry consists of – and it’s more than books, newspapers and magazines. It’s vehicle-wrapping, it’s augmented-reality, it’s participating in exciting marketing campaigns, it’s displays, banners and posters, it’s 11-colour wine labels, it’s packaging, POS and promotional products, it’s DM – have I forgotten anyone? Yes – print managers! Love ’em or not, they’re an integral part of our industry and are a major force in encouraging more women into ”print”.

This is the point: we have such an exciting story to tell – but we’re not letting the cat out of the bag! We’re too busy worrying about training apprentices!

So what to do? Very little. We’ve already got the various TAFE structures and colleges to act as delivery- or channel-managers. This is vital: it is important that TAFE is not side-lined as it harbours so much wisdom and expertise in the field of ”curriculum-delivery”. But they are not experts on what various industries require in terms of ”content”. It’s also important that there is an on-line version to reach out to remote or disadvantaged students, who may not be able to attend a bricks-and-mortar classroom for whatever reason (like having a day job!).

In one sense, TAFE is merely a conduit, they’re agnostic to the actual content (within reason!) – hence it’s up to us to determine the actual subject matter (the curriculum) which I just happen to have done. I’d be happy to share my starter-kit version with anyone that’s interested – at no extra charge!

The answer is right before our eyes …

Now, are you ready: just when you’re reaching for the smelling-salts it gets even more radical!

I’ve even worked out a way of scattering 100s of ”mini-TAFEs” all over Australia. No, we don’t have to build lots of tin sheds. Sophisticated microcosms of our industry already exist all over the place and they’re equipped with the latest pre-press and digital devices. You haven’t noticed? They’re called Snaps and Kwik-Kopys and Signwave and Sign-A-Rama and collectively they represent a fantastic resource which could be utilised across the nation.

There would be strict protocols around allowing which students to attend, and under what kind of supervision but again – it’s done in the fast-food industry – and it’s called “Maccas”, who deliberately act as an entry-level induction or training college for the rest of the food, beverage, catering and hospitality sectors.

And what’s in it for them – the digital centres? No, not free hamburgers, something less fatty and more enriching: lots of talented young people flowing through their doors, all potential ”new recruits”! Digital centres across the nation are screaming for applicants and can’t find any. Why? They’re at uni doing fine arts or post-modernist theories of existentialism when they’d probably prefer helping a large corporation design and print its next DM or branding campaign.

The other benefit is they wouldn’t have to call me begging for staff that I can’t find! But seriously, there is a time for everything (so they say) and now is the time for us to unite as an industry (commercial, packaging and signage) and act cooperatively to create an accessible-online course highlighting the marvellous career opportunities that await young school-leavers (and others) in print.

– James Cryer
JDA Print Recruitment


3 Responses to “Time for ‘radical’ new print training model”

  1. April 05, 2017 at 2:13 pm,


    James – certainly agree with the sentiment expressed in your article. Just wondering whether you’re familiar with the work that has done over the past number of years by FuturePrint – trying to revolutionise print training within an often apathetic industry. Also the new Skills Service Organisations which were formed In January 2016 to overhaul the current certificates for print training? There are many active and avid evangelists trying to establish a new industry training approach – it is a very complex issue and often held back by awards, workplace agreements and so on.

  2. April 06, 2017 at 9:32 am,


    Not forgetting Holmesglen Institute’s new print training program headed by none other than Robert Black who did a marvelous job at RMIT until they stuck their head in the sand and drank too much of their own Kool Aid. Chisolm TAFE too has great programs. Look them up.

  3. May 13, 2017 at 9:00 pm,

    Vick Tsaccounis

    As a full time Graphic Prepress TAFE Teacher, I was unaware there was a problem with the content I teach, especially since the Training package I am following was developed in consultation with the printing industry. The apprentices I teach, receive structured training in many aspects of the printing industry with emphasis on under-pinning knowledge, so they can understand what they are doing at work.

    I agree there should be training available in other growth areas of the printing industry however, it would not be fair to completely forget about apprentices. I think good apprentices are valuable employees and some go on to become great managers and sales people, partly due to their broad, sound technical knowledge.

Comment on this article

To receive notification of comments made to this article, you can also provide your email address below.