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Soapbox & Opinions

Articles from INDUSTRY ASSOCIATIONS (263 Articles), EDUCATION / TRAINING (185 Articles), MARKETING (105 Articles)










Emily Snadden
Emily Snadden

Old school vs new school

The industry needs to open its eyes to alternative training pathways, says award-winning manufacturing jeweller Emily Snadden.

Six months after finishing my Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Jewellery in 2006, I would never have believed that within four years I could possibly win what is arguably the most prestigious award in Australian jewellery design.

With fewer apprenticeships than ever and a multitude of training options available, deciding which path to take in the jewellery industry was my first hurdle. What I didn’t know then was that the wrong choice could be a nail in the coffin for my career, because the type of training aspiring jewellers choose to undertake may determine their future employment prospects.

Many factors come into play when choosing a training option; access to training (living in regional areas), unavailability of apprenticeships and the emergence of new training opportunities, all make the choice rather limited and varied. Young aspiring jewellers may have more training options, but they are required to choose between ‘traditional’ apprentice-based training and qualifications that can be gained via university or diploma courses.

My own degree, which was endorsed by the JAA, offered an alternative training and educational model to the apprenticeship system and covered both design and manufacturing skills. The programme also offered intensive design and computer modelling instruction and business minors. The qualification I received was one of a manufacturing jeweller.

Imagine my shock, therefore, when I returned to my home state of Tasmania as a fledgling designer only to find potential employers were reluctant to recognise my degree. I was confronted by an array of questions and disbelief and even offered a position as a first year apprentice, despite the fact that the BA covers all areas within the apprenticeship model and was endorsed by the JAA.

I find it strange and disappointing that the jewellers I approached for work were not able to assess my capabilities based on the skills I could demonstrate or my passion for our craft. Is the lack of recognition for alternate training pathways due to a lack of knowledge of the course’s content and standing within the field, or are these courses simply considered inferior?

If the type of qualification I received is not always recognised by employers, does this mean that aspiring jewellers must consider the type of jeweller they wish to be before they enrol? Some of my fellow classmates managed to find work in other areas of Australia, but others were offered first and second year apprenticeships like me.

In an industry that is becoming increasingly driven by offshore producers and the digital age, some of these modern courses are in fact better equipped to prepare students for work than the traditional apprenticeship.

They offer a less traditional pathway, and one-on-one time with a master jeweller is shared by the group of students but, with a broader learning environment and diverse skills perhaps these courses could provide the industry with graduates to suit the new era of jewellery design and manufacture? Many of these new courses now offer exciting modules in computer modelling, machinery and focus strongly on the importance of design.

After my initial setback I spent two years back at my university as a casual lecturer and technical officer and completed a Master of Arts Practice (MAP) in Jewellery Design and Production. I realised then that the only way to progress was to develop a production range and set up my own business. This has led me to the development of a brand, and the marketing of myself, as a designer. I have been extremely lucky in that I had a long-standing relationship with a local business in Hobart, which I worked for sporadically over several years, and who sponsored my award-winning piece ‘Precious Limb Bangle’. Since winning the Grand Prix award at last year’s JAA Australian Design Awards, I’ve also become the first Australian jeweller to have been awarded at the International Jewellery Design Excellence Awards in Hong Kong.

My non-traditional pathway of learning may not appeal to all, but in an ever changing and more technologically advanced industry these alternative forms of training can in fact deliver broader skilled junior employees into what is widely recognised as an industry desperate for youth. Now isn’t that something worth considering?

Emily Snadden is a jewellery designer based in Hobart. www.emilysnadden.com











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