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Funding cuts to jewellery diplomas have resulted in fears that fewer people will enter the industry
Funding cuts to jewellery diplomas have resulted in fears that fewer people will enter the industry

Jewellery diplomas stripped of government funding

Diplomas in jewellery are among a list of nearly 500 courses that will no longer be eligible for financial support under new Federal Government plans.

On 10 October the Department of Education and Training announced it would replace its VET FEE-HELP scheme with a new VET Student Loans program.

Tim Peel, Gold & Silversmiths Guild of Australia president
Tim Peel, Gold & Silversmiths Guild of Australia president

A total of 478 diplomas eligible for student loans within the previous arrangement will be stripped of funding following a review of more than 800 courses.

Under the proposed scheme, those undertaking the Diploma of Jewellery and Object Design and the Advanced Diploma of Jewellery and Object Design would no longer benefit from the subsidy, leading to fears fewer people would enter the industry.

Gold and Silversmiths Guild of Australia president Tim Peel said the withdrawal of funding would place a ‘massive dent’ in the local trade.

“With the slow contraction of apprenticeships throughout the industry, the diploma and advanced diploma have become more and more important,” he explained.

“The fact is that most manufacturing jewellers are working in small businesses where there might be one or two on the bench and so when we bring in someone for training or an apprenticeship we need that person to have a moderate amount of experience and bench skills already.”

Jason Ree, Jason Ree Design owner
Jason Ree, Jason Ree Design owner

He added that diplomas were “the one thing supporting the apprenticeship training because there aren’t enough apprentices on the books to maintain a Certificate I, II or III course on their own”.

According to Peel, the courses also represented a career path for those looking to expand their own business or create their own career without necessarily working for someone else.

“The number of small businesses in the jewellery trade that start out from these diplomas, degrees and art schools is growing exponentially,” he said.

Others weigh in

Jason Ree, owner of Jason Ree Design in Sydney and a long-time supporter of jewellery apprentices, said while the VET FEE-HELP scheme was due for an overhaul because of the way “certain institutions had behaved”, he was disappointed that jewellery was not recognised as a “needs-based” industry.

“I would like to see this course reinstated to receive student loan support purely to allow young people the experience of jewellery making and design,” he commented. “Having said that I don’t necessarily believe that this advanced diploma is the best vehicle to prepare industry-ready participants. Personally for my business, a hybrid of this formal design approach, combined with a trade course would deliver better results.”

Peter Keep, North Metropolitan TAFE jewellery trade lecturer
Peter Keep, North Metropolitan TAFE jewellery trade lecturer

Jewellery trade lecturer at North Metropolitan TAFE in Western Australia and Jewellers Association of Australia (JAA) education committee member Peter Keep had similar sentiments, adding that he appreciated the government’s decision.

Keep explained there was a clear distinction in Western Australia between the ‘jewellery industry’ and what TAFE called the ‘jewellery art industry’.

“I teach commercial trade-relevant skills for job readiness whereas the 'jewellery art industry' focus on design and basic skills that are best defined as hobby level,” he said.

“Graduates of the 'jewellery art industry' courses are not generally employable unless they then find an apprenticeship, and I have to say I have rarely, if ever, seen a job advertised here in WA for a jewellery designer.”

Keep said the government was focused on courses linked to employment, which as a taxpayer, he understood.

Simon Birmingham, education and training minister
Simon Birmingham, education and training minister

“The apprenticeship is still the only way to enter the industry if it's bench work you want,” he explained. “So I believe a pre-apprenticeship is the best option so that the potential apprentice has some skills to start with and the initial training obligation is removed from the employer.”

Commenting on the course selection, Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham stated: “The 347 courses selected clearly offered strong employment prospects by being on at least two ‘state skills needs’ lists and aligned with our national priorities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and agriculture.”

A public consultation regarding the government’s selection of eligible courses ended on 23 October, with a Department spokesperson telling Jeweller the list of diplomas that would qualify under the VET Student Loans program would be finalised “in due course”.

According to the government’s My Skills website, there are three training providers that offer the Diploma of Jewellery and Object Design – Melbourne Polytechnic, TAFE NSW and TAFE NSW – Sydney Institute. There are four training providers that offer the Advanced Diploma of Jewellery and Object Design – Melbourne Polytechnic, TAFE SA, TAFE NSW and TAFE NSW – Sydney Institute.

If passed by parliament, the VET Student Loans program would be implemented on 1 January 2017.

More reading
Aussie south heralds new jewellery training centre
Furore over jewellery apprenticeship training cuts
SOS – Save Our Skills

















Your Say

Keep has a good point
We need the apprenticeship system to grow and arty-farty courses that lead nowhere are part of the apprentice training demise.
Of course some more balance would be good, e.g. business training options for those that wish to head in that direction.
I wonder how many of the art course inspired businesses still survive after 5 years? And if there are such businesses - how much of their income comes from Govt grants?
Garry Holloway
posted by Garry Holloway on November 02, 2016 10:50


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