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RMIT dumps print training – printing industry outrage

Tuesday, 24 April 2012
By Print 21 Online Article
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RMIT University will close the book on its International Centre of Graphic Technology (ICGT) centre in 18 months as falling apprenticeship numbers force its hand. The Printing Industries Association of Australia said it was “shocked and dismayed.

David Currie, CEO of Currie Group and a long-term supporter of the Institute and of printing training around the nation, also said he was, “Mortified and shattered as a result.” Currie Group has provided millions of dollars in equipment and support and is at a loss as to why the decision was taken.

The shock announcement follows a series of 2011 investments that saw ICGT’s press hall at RMIT’s Brunswick campus install a purpose-built climate controlled pre-press facility. Currie Group alone has contributed two Shinohara offset presses, a HP Indigo 5000 digital engine along with a state-of-the-art Horizon finishing line.

The training centre is also nearly a year into a five-year agreement signed with Heidelberg for a 2006 model Speedmaster SM 52-8-P, an installation that marked the first time print apprentices has access to an eight-colour perfector press. RMIT has invested more than $1 million in the past three years into the ICGT.

According to John Barnes, director of TAFE at RMIT, the university is already in consultation with industry stakeholders to ensure a niche-training organisation steps up to serve their requirements. “We shall be working with every apprentice and their employers to ensure that all current training programs are completed. All existing programs will be taught until completion,” he said.

“Unfortunately, the printing industry has been experiencing long-term difficulties in sourcing apprentices. In turn, this has cut numbers at the ICGT to the point where its activities are no longer viable. The education industry is changing and we at RMIT are putting our efforts into growth areas which reflect our strengths as a global university of technology and design – areas of high growth and high demand.”

An “extremely disappointed” Bill Healey, CEO of Printing Industries, believes it is imperative for the industry to act quickly and collectively to remedy the situation.

“While the announcement is extremely disappointing we must be proactive in finding a solution, not just for Victoria and Tasmania, but for the industry nationally.

“Apprenticeship numbers have been declining over many years and all publically funded training providers have been experiencing difficulties in justifying stand-alone training organisations in their states. Industry needs to step in and take control of its own destiny and look to creating a national approach to apprenticeship training,” he said.

Healey said the PIAA has been exploring the feasibility of establishing a single national training arrangement to ensure the needs of the printing industry continued to be met into the future. “Such an arrangement would focus on improved efficiency and better promotion of a nationally consistent training pathway for apprentices.

“We are currently preparing an application for funding to look at the future of apprenticeships, in conjunction with the Australian Metal Workers Union. Given the RMIT announcement, this will need to be fast-tracked,” said Healey.

He called on the Victorian Government to ensure ongoing funding is provided to enable the industry to meet its skill requirements. “We believe this is essential if our members are to retain a place in the multi-channel communication world of the future,” he said.

Printing Industries will be meeting with RMIT as matter of urgency to ensure apprentice training in Victoria and Tasmania continues for existing and new apprentices during the 18 month RMIT wind-up period.

Ron Patterson, state manager for Printing Industries Victoria and Tasmania, is disappointed by the announcement after working with RMIT over a number of years to develop a new approach to industry training

“A great many people have been working to create a better system for our apprentices and a modern, relevant curriculum to attract more apprentices into our technologically driven industry, so RMITs decision to bail out is not welcomed.”

“However it won’t deter us and I am confident that any consolidation of training agendas would be welcomed by suppliers who are regularly faced with having to provide expensive equipment to multiple sites. Consolidation could lead to a better allocation of costly resources and to closer co-operation with industry. We must focus on achieving this as quickly as possible,” said Patterson. ”


7 Responses to “RMIT dumps print training – printing industry outrage”

  1. April 24, 2012 at 7:59 pm,


    What a disgrace RMIT gets public money to fund its courses
    Some people could see this coming a few years ago when RMIT sacked Robert Black
    And appointed a non printing person to run the school
    It’s all about making money

  2. April 25, 2012 at 11:34 am,

    Phil Barnes

    A teacher’s perspective
    I am the only currently employed Print Finishing teacher at RMIT ICGT. In 2006 a report into ICGT was commissioned by RMIT as to the viability of ICGT. A number of stakeholders were invited, but very few of the teaching staff. The staff meet and teach with apprentices at work and at school, we talk with their management and get an insight into problems within training. When the consultation was undertaken, the management allowed 3 teachers to attend. One was easing into retirement, one was a sessional and the other only new to the Centre. We had no say and were eventually given a copy of the final report which was to be kept confidential. The then Director, Robert Black, did little to react to the recommendations and that legacy was never more glaring than when he departed, that they replaced him with a young, industry inexperienced Director, and then appointed a caretaker HOS from a completely different industry.
    The writing was on the wall then. When the $ came in for the refurbishment of the print rooms, there was a collective thinking that the school was recovering. We tend to forget however, that there were a number of redundancies and that FX services moved into the building, along with a huge cut in ICGT floor space. I’m sure this would offset the cost of refurbishment.
    Lack of attendance by Management to the grass roots type companies allowed other states such as SA to come into Victoria and take apprentices away from ICGT. Stupid Management decisions like cutting student attendance to 6 day fortnights Wednesday to Wednesday made it easy for other RTOs to offer alternative solutions.
    There are a number of highly experienced, dedicated and committed staff members who have little or no input into the running of ICGT in the last few years, working in an environment of red tape and wavering job security. We were meeting under the guise of ICGT amalgamating with another of RMIT schools, and we’re told we were closing. Personally I have not met John Barnes, nor received an email from him. The staff were ambushed at the meeting with a Union rep present and the HR department with envelopes ready.
    If the Industry is serious about it’s training, it needs to back it. I have received many phone calls over the years asking if I know of any kids who wanted an apprenticeship. This industry needs to change it’s image before kids will want to get into it. The kids talk to me, they tell me that they get extremely low pay, they get treated like dirt, and receive little training by their peers. They feed hoppers for days on end and get berated for the smallest indiscretions. The times have changed, I used to put up with this when I was undertaking my apprenticeship, but we just got on with it. The kids today have more choice, so why should they have to put up with that crap. Attitudes to training must change. That is not to say that all employers are the same, some employers do the right thing and reap the benefits of a happy highly trained worker.
    Across the courtyard at RMIT Brunswick campus is another Industry Tafe college. The College of Fashion And Textiles. Their courses are full, their numbers overflowing. The young persons perception is different to us older experienced people. We need to understand that, or we are in peril of our Industry becoming under skilled.
    Phil Barnes (these are personal observations only)

  3. April 26, 2012 at 1:07 pm,

    Andy McCourt

    The popular misconception, driven by the juggernaut of spin from Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, Google etc, is that print will die, so there will be no need for training in the graphic arts. It’s a lie of heinous proportions – but the fact that our educators have willingly swallowed the ‘Silicon Snake-Oil’ and are abandoning print graphic arts training beggars belief. It is also incredibly stupid, naiive and a complete abrogation of duty. Change is certainly called for in training and it’s the job of those entrusted with education to identify and manage those changes…..not walk out on the whole responsibility. Would somebody care to tell these Muppets at RMIT that many Australians are about to depart for what is still one of the largest industrial trade fairs in the world? Drupa (Germany will draw more visitors that CeBit and is totally about Graphic Arts and Communication – including iPads, Mobile, Online etc. Print even without value-add is still estimated to be a $630 billion global business (source Caslon) – probably more. In Australia, about $7-8 billion (source PIAA/ABS). RMIT – I used to have enormous respect for you but now I don’t think much of you at all.

  4. April 26, 2012 at 2:12 pm,


    Please also consider the Full-Time students that attend ICGT, now that there will be no further courses available to Multimedia (print) students.
    Multimedia is the FUTURE for the Print Industries – “GOING FORWARD” – the courses (Multimedia Cert 4/Diploma) at the Centre were designed with this in mind.
    What about Cert4 students that were considering a pathway to Diploma.

  5. May 03, 2012 at 1:52 pm,

    another voice

    I couldn’t agree more with what all previous comments are saying above. The future is about cross media publishing and how to take advantage of multimedia/print/online solutions and sustainability! There will always be print in many forms and investing the time and training into all print area such as digital, new litho and other print methods and a multitude of online combinations – while insuring great design and graphics is all part of it! (simple examples – imagine going into a supermarket with all white packaging because of no print! Think of all of the online companies who use print in other areas as well. Have you seen 3D printing yet? It’s a fantastic new area, based on 3D design and modeling etc etc We need to adapt and grow, not chop the plant off at the base!

    The ICGT had been on track to go forward into that future with it’s great long standing working relationship with the print industry and it’s openness to embrace the future. Built as it was on 114 years of history from the original Melbourne College of Print – it was without doubt the premier state Print training institution and arguably the best one in the country if not the entire Asia Pacific region.

    However RMIT University just could not tolerate that during this time of rapid change and a need for intensive support and adaptation to keep up with a changing industry the ICGT wasn’t doing as well financially. (it always comes down to money doesn’t it!) It started by slashing the jobs of about 20 of the ICGT’s best staff members, from director, manager, admin, and trainers down to even the only print repair technician, people whose combined experience and knowledge were the very ticket to the new future. Leaving behind only a skeleton crew of extremely overworked, frightened and despondent workers. While at the same time appointing a new director whose lack of any type of in-depth knowledge of the print industry, bully boy tactics, abysmal educational models and methods, lack of vision or inventiveness, high handedness and extreme arrogance have in the space of only 2 years virtually ruined all that had been built up over more than a century.

    This is an almost unbelievable, sad and tragic outcome, not only for the print industry, trainers, apprentices and certificate and diploma students, but for the entire state and even the nation!

  6. May 10, 2012 at 3:13 pm,

    Andrew McGowan

    Let me pre-empt this with stating my biases – I am an Ex head of TAFE SA and Ex Owner of Print Training Australia.
    I’m not surprised RMIT is closing its print training – I am surprised at the short timeline for wind-up and feel for some excellent staff.
    If there is to be a review – I suggest they look to the South Australia print industry to see what is happening . I expect it is the only State where apprentice numbers have grown (significantly) over the past years/decade. I suspect there are more trainees and apprentices in the print trades in South Australia than the total across the rest of Australia.
    My view is that TAFE South Australia (and TAFE ACT) were the only States that truly embraced and responded to the National Training Reforms over the past decade. The establishment of a private provider (Print Training Australia) and subsequent competition in training served as the catalyst for change in SA . For other TAFEs that were in denial , ignorant, too slow or just arrogant of the need for reform it is/was only a matter of time before their demise. The funding models imposed as part of the national training reforms almost guaranteed this. Most other State TAFEs have been experiencing death by a thousand cuts as opposed to RMIT’s quick kill.
    It’s no more valid to ‘blame industry for not taking on apprentices’ than it would be for a non-profitable print company to blame its demise on customers for not ordering enough print. If you don’t have a product/service the customer wants you can’t force them to buy it. If a TAFE college’s training isn’t wanted by industry (for a whole range of valid reasons) you can’t expect them to send students.
    I think Management does have to take the blame – not for being from outside the industry (After all things are pretty rosy in TAFE SA and their manager is not only from outside the industry – God Forbid – she’s a woman!!!) but for not responding to industries changing needs and desires. I could go on for pages – I won’t!
    There are lessons to heed here – ignore change at your peril – competition can be good – big isn’t necessarily better
    If there is a review – ‘ be wary of vested interests masquerading as high moral principles’.
    Andrew McGowan

  7. July 11, 2012 at 12:01 pm,


    As a student currently undertaking this course I am incredibly concerned about the way RMIT are handling the situation. I understand that it isn’t their fault the course itself is closing, but I am completely in the dark about where I go to next. As a student who has missed a block I am two weeks of schooling from completing my training, but I cannot get an answer about where/when I will be able to do this. By this time they have had long enough to decide on what the plan is for current students, but even the teachers (from the impression I’ve gotten) are in the dark. No one seems to know anything! Pick up your game RMIT.

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