By Julius Grafton
Julius College closed down in early December after almost eight years, leaving students wanting a Diploma in Technical Production, Theatre and Events in NSW with few options.
The college failed because it never attracted more than 50 full time students, well under the threshold required to operate an accredited college. As a Registered Training Organisation, it faced the same standards as a TAFE with compliance a daily struggle.
CX Magazine is not affected by the closedown.
For 2011 the forwards enrolments had fallen to just 10 in early December, against 20 at the same time last year and 25 in 2008. The downturn was attributed to lack of VET Fee Help, which allows students to repay fees from future taxable earnings. Most colleges now have access to the scheme, but Julius College didn’t.
Most of 2010 was spent focused on part time night courses that were part funded by the government. But the November intake of 10 compared poorly with the previous November’s 28. It was clear then that attracting students was an uphill battle.
While industry was enormously supportive with many firms lending or donating equipment, there is little push towards qualifications, with just 6% of those working backstage holding a relevant qualification. Of 200 funded traineeship places available in NSW in 2010, industry employers took up just four.
People working within the industry were also not prepared to undergo a skills assessment, with fewer than ten each year taking advantage of this.
Another concerning aspect is the explosion in school based VET training in senior years, that has produced hundreds of school leavers with a Certificate Three in Live Production, Theatre and Events – yet many cannot set up a mic stand or hang a light.
Other problems loomed, as the body charged with renewing the CUE03 Training Package steadfastly refused to engage with industry, let alone with a college delivering training. IBSA renewed Music and Film training packages, but then arbitrarily updated and changed CUE 03 without notice. They will say they do or did consult, but clearly with stakeholders of their own choice as CX have not been able to identify anyone they talk to.
While IBSA’s errant behavior is not a direct factor in the closure of the college, it certainly added to stress when a qualification suddenly had significant changes made, or was outright abolished. Of all the professional stakeholders that the college engaged with, IBSA is most in need of high level corrective intervention. It is a national disgrace that they have failed to properly review the training package after eight years, when it had a shelf life of five years.
An example: no college is required to teach soldering. And in the new Screen and Media package they ‘forgot’ to deal with CCU. So there is no requirement to train on how to actually control a camera.
Many colleges complain about the strangling regulation and red tape, but Julius College don’t rate this as a factor in the closure. It was purely a commercial decision based on inability to continue to underwrite the business. Tighter standards in 2011 require a college run at a profit every year, and not take fees in advance. This spelled the end.
All students have been contacted, with refunds made where fees were paid in advance. Credible alternative colleges are few and far between, but include JMC, TAFE and higher education providers like NIDA.
College results will be held by CX Magazine for reprints or validation of results from employers into the future.
SMPTE Governor and freelance trainer John Maizels paid tribute to the college: “I’m very proud to have been part of a college where educational outcomes were right at the top of the list of what’s important, followed by educational outcomes and educational outcomes. I am saddened that the system didn’t recognise that, and sadder yet that the industry thinks so little of qualifications that you had to fight for enrolments despite delivering a product of impeccable quality”.