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Rising stars need support

WorldSkills Australia is dedicated to the promotion and the building of a skills culture that celebrates excellence. We support VET-based careers and endorse the value of apprenticeships and then challenge these apprentices through competition.

It is a cause I am passionate about and while we do our best to learn about all VET sectors, I must admit that until August this year, my jewellery industry knowledge was limited to what I had observed at the different levels of competition in Australia and at the international WorldSkills competition.

August 2017 marked a WorldSkills milestone where for the first time regional Australia jewellery competitions were held at the International Jewellery Fair (IJF) in Sydney rather than at a TAFE or registered training organisation (RTO).

Aside from the obvious benefits offered to the 23 competition participants, the move also gave us the opportunity to network with jewellers and educators. We gained insight into the exciting possibilities emerging in your industry, as well as the complex issues it faces.

Firstly, on a positive note, the energy and innovation witnessed was indicative of a trade openly embracing new technology and advances in techniques and manufacturing. Having spoken to industry members, such as Pallion global manager of finished jewellery Darren May, we understand the industry has adopted an unprecedented amount of new manufacturing technologies in the past 10 years.

"I believe worldskills is doing this for jewellery benchmarking; however, maybe there can be more collaboration between smaller businesses"

Darren has also explained that despite this interest in the new, there is still a focus on the strength of traditional skills and how far these specialised skills can take a jeweller who is dedicated, talented and immersed in their craft.

This balancing of the ‘new’ jeweller that possesses both traditional handmade skills, along with a practical understanding of modern tools, and who can interact and engage with these new technologies is proving to be a more agile and adaptable individual. They are also proving to be the future direction of the industry.

This leads to the next point: how does the local industry properly support and champion these rising stars of the jewellery world? Many of the jewellers and small business owners expressed their delight at seeing young apprentices and students participating in the regional competition and while they were happy to see so many young people coming through the industry, they expressed worry about where they would find ongoing work along with opportunities for up-skilling and career advancement.

The concern raised was that there weren’t enough industry positions given many jewellers had their own businesses and were not at the stage where they required an apprentice. After speaking with jewellers and RTO reps at the IJF, it would appear that if this is the way the industry is at present, then the traditional four-year apprenticeship currently viable with many other trades is not one presently able to support the upcoming generation.

To ensure those who are passionate about the industry and want to be part of it are given the opportunity to do so, either the industry or the training models need to be updated to make it easier for passion to be transformed into a career.

This may not be easy to achieve short term but in order to make any effective change, more feedback and consultation is necessary. The current organisation that oversees the training package development is Innovation and Business Skills Australia, and when the package is up for review, the industry needs to have an influential voice.

One of the best examples I’ve seen lately of industry heads supporting their apprentices is equipment management company WesTrac. Through sustained training and development, WesTrac works with apprentices to create an environment built on loyalty. By continually benchmarking their apprentices against one another through internal competitions, it is ensuring that overall standards and training are aligned and up to date.

I believe WorldSkills is doing this for jewellery benchmarking; however, maybe there can be more collaboration between smaller businesses – like conducting training days with other jewellers in the region or working with the local RTO to bring in apprentices for up-skilling with short courses.

There were so many great takeaways from our involvement at the IJF and WorldSkills is now looking for other opportunities to showcase jewellery apprentices and the industry externally. If jewellers think the ‘old’ ways of doing things no longer work then WorldSkills Australia is happy to get the conversations going about the ‘new’ ways to support the future of this wonderful industry.

Name: Brigitte Collins
Business: WorldSkills Australia
Position: General manager, technical delegate
Location: Sydney, NSW
Years involved with WorldSkills: 20

Ikecho Australia

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