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Visual Connections broadens training to address skills shortage – Andy McCourt

Following on from recruiter James Cryer’s article on getting to students at high-school level about careers in Signage and Display, there is a website that all sign businesses should be aware of and that is www.signcareers.com.au.

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This site, established by not-for-profit trade association Visual Connections, together with ASGA and REA (Re-Engineering Australia), is an excellent resource for those looking into our industry as a career path and encompasses graphic design, engraving, routing, laser and materials fabrication. Technology has extended the reach of straightforward Signage production to include short-run packaging, printing on objects such as pens, golf balls, coffee mugs, gift items, garments, flags and even art prints on canvas. Vehicle graphic wrapping continues to amaze and attract remarkable creative talent as well as for fleet identification bread-and-butter jobs.

While signs to inform, direct, warn or advertise remain the bedrock of the industry, the newer areas made possible by flatbed UV printers, computer-controlled cutting tables and methods such as dye sublimation, deliver a scope of services limited only by the imaginations of business owners and creative designers.

Visual Connections (and its merged predecessors GAMAA and VISA) together with ASGA have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars for many years, supporting TAFEs and raising awareness of the Sign & Print Industries in schools nationwide. 

An Education liaison team works with schools on a daily basis, representing an investment of $150,000 per year made jointly by Visual Connections, ASGA and REA, the latter also receiving $200,000 a year to get our industry on the radar of hundreds of schools.

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  photo: www.signcareers.com.au

 With PrintEx/Visual Impact only two months away, we can again expect in excess of 120 students to visit the show, where they can see our Industry firsthand and get hands-on experience with current apprentices and TAFE teachers. Round table meetings with industry leaders.

Skill shortage is still with us

While the on-going skills shortage of qualified sign industry personnel and installers is undeniable, our industry is not alone in suffering this as students are inundated with messages urging them to get university degrees, train in bio-tech, agri-tech, nano-tech, the law, medicine or just new technologies. Not everyone can become an Atlassian success story like Mike Cannon-Brooks and Scott Farquhar – great if you can, really great but there is an enduring demand for Sign industry ‘tradies’ who can be sure of a fulfilling and technology-filled career in a growth industry that today even includes fashion textiles.

It’s hard to adequately describe the extent of our industry’s reach and the future prospects, which are proving to include ceramics, LEDs, textiles and packaging. The old ‘5 trades’ denominators of Litho, Gravure, Flexo, Screen process and Electrophotography matter less than having an all-round digital knowledge, some creative skills and a bright customer-facing disposition.

It will, however, all be on display at PrintEx in August. Perhaps this also presents an opportunity for all trade association, RTOs and passionate ambassadors for our industry such as James Cryer, to come together and look at a ‘pooling of resources’ for a united industry training approach that includes ‘traditional’ bodies such as TAFEs, the PIAA, AIG and LIA? It could result in a sort of portable ‘digital graphic passport’ that students can take into whatever branch of the graphic arts disciplines they desire.

Food for thought?