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Wednesday, 15 August 2007
By Print 21 Online Article

Dear Editor,

Re: Printing Industries launches Skills Shortages Project

I would like to make a few points about this article. After more than a decade of the National Training Reform Agenda and its most prevalent manifestation – Competency-Based Training Packages – the best that industry can come up with is encouraging more skilled-based immigration. To me this is symptomatic of a training system that is falling short of expectations.

I would ask Keith Scrivens to note that, under the current system, apprenticeships are no longer time-based. Students, or ‘candidates’, can take as little OR as long as they like to achieve competency in their chosen field. As my colleague, Allan Wetherell points out by way of example, much has been made of the facility for Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). This part of the ‘new’ system has allowed many previously unrecognised participants in the industry to gain qualifications through recognition of skills acquired through on-the-job training in informal circumstances and then supplement them with truncated coursework at TAFE or some other training organisation. In doing so they have achieved not only recognition but, hopefully, more job security and the prospect to move along a career path through greater job mobility. Employers have gained a better understanding of the skills and knowledge of their employees which contributes to better human resource management and higher productivity. In this regard the current system works well and addresses an important aspect of many industries that had been neglected for generations. However, in implementing this new regime I am often bemused by the anomalies which seemed to me all too obvious at the outset, and ignored ever since.

The most glaring of these is the misleading title of “Training Packages”. As anyone who has been a candidate, delved into the detail or actually delivered a training package they will know that training is a very small component of this process. What they should be called is Assessment Packages as they outline the “Performance Criteria” and “Elements” by which individuals are assessed but do not provide any learning materials or resources a candidate can use to expand or improve their required industry skills and knowledge. These may be provided on an ad hoc basis and developed, usually by TAFE, to provide material support for class based learning activities in simulated learning environments. In effect, Training Packages operate like a needs analysis of training requirements rather than provide any structured mode for delivering the type of skills and knowledge employees, and employers, need today.

Too often Training Packages are trumpeted as the cure-all for the industry’s skills shortage without any rational explanation. They have been used to lure industry into the prospect of not having to ‘lose’ their apprentices and trainees for relatively short periods of time while they attend college. We now find ourselves in the somewhat desperate situation where, instead of producing highly skilled young people into an industry that, with a broader vision and self-concept, could promise a lot, we are looking to other shores. No doubt these shores will not be those where the wages are higher than they are here. You only have to look at the university sector, and medicine in particular, to see a parallel situation.

In closing I would like to return to Keith Scriven’s
point about the length of apprenticeships and their wages. He can directly contribute to the attractiveness of the industry by paying higher wages now to apprentices and qualified tradespeople. There is no impediment to this other than your short-term profit margin. If you talk to serious trainees and apprentices they are often bemused by the notion that there is less to learn or that their tasks are somehow easier because of modern technology. These technologies have made some tasks easier and even obsolete but they have also introduced new standards and tolerances that were unachievable before. For the ‘button pushers’ in an automated workflow it may be easier but you are not going to attract high quality candidates into an industry of process workers. Clever kids want challenging, interesting work, high wages and real career paths. This type of skill and knowledge doesn’t happen overnight. Of course proponents of Training Package as the solitary solution will say that apprentices can graduate as soon as they have developed the required competencies. The corollary of this is that, given rigorous assessment procedures, they may never graduate if they aren’t given the right training in the first place. Then we have a skill shortage.

Mark Stegman

Teacher

Graphic Prepress

TAFE NSW

Dear Editor,

Re: Adobe links to two Australian FedEx Kinko’s stores

I imagine that if Adobe rewound the tape, approached all of the online capable digital print vendors and started up an online portal, we may have some balance to this.

Q. How many digital print providers in the US, or for that matter, Australia, are online capable?

I would seem logical that the digital print market should be interested in exploiting the technology rather than see it as a threat. If Adobe was approached by all and sundry, and we subsequently turned away, then I would have a problem with Adobe.

I suspect that Adobe is susceptible to home grown innovation. In this case, I would think it would be worth a challenge to approach Adobe and ask them to incorporate a digital print storefront, of which any legitimate digital print vendor could participate, using Adobe Bridge aka Adobe Stock Photos, but in the reverse, where consumers can upload and buy print.

The one thing that escapes me is how anyone would feel comfortable executing a print order of any substance without actually have a print sample in hand. The tactile nature of the print business would normally dictate that a person gets hands on at some stage. Overcoming this will probably take a lot longer to resolve than the hype of Adobe’s first attempt at playing monopoly.

Speaking of the opportunities; the first significant company to offer an online portal to allow buyers to select from different online vendors would probably see the emergence of the next generation print broker.

Regards

Fraser Crozier.

Dear Editor,

Re: Adobe links to two Australian FedEx Kinko’s stores

The access from Adobe’s Kinko’s button through to Australian Kinko’s sites has been known for some time.

Despite not being in direct competition with Kinko’s, I know other centres like ours are (not just my system). That is why, when the story first broke, we advised Adobe that if the matter is not resolved satisfactorily, our future design software licenses will be QuarkXPress. And we would not renew our ASN Print Service Provider subscription.

Currently I have opted not to enroll a staff member in the forthcoming Melbourne InDesign seminar so already we are able to put actions behind our intentions. We may be small but I know that other print service providers like ourselves also feel strongly about this. And many of us are able over the next year or so to effect a change of provider.

Having used their software before, I am comfortable in going a step further by acquiring Global Graphics’ Jaws PDF licences (www.jawspdf.com) in future rather than Adobe Acrobat. Australian support is available, they are heavily involved in the print industry so like QuarkXpress, they are a viable competitor to Adobe.

I’m comfortable whichever way it goes but I am very sure Adobe isn’t.

Regards

Ken Dowling

Centre Manager

WorldWide Online Printing Richmond

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