Acquisition

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TRAINING Training the next generation by Dick Hobbs A t the end of January a new body – the Institute for Training in Television Production (ITTP) – held its first conference, organised by the publishers of tv-bay magazine and chaired by former broadcaster Roz Morris, MD of TV News London Ltd. A packed room debated – sometimes hotly – the issues. Chair of ITTP is freelance lighting cameraman Graham Reed. In his opening comments he painted a bleak picture of the skills that the current crop of media technology courses are teaching. He recalled a recent lighting job on which he gave experience to a couple of third-year students. “I asked them ‘the 13A question’: what current can you draw from a domestic circuit,” he recalled. “I asked them about amps, and got the distinct impression that they had no idea. Their ideas of wiring up a 13A plug made me very scared. “Young people want to direct music videos, but they have no idea of counting bars or musical notation. Students do not seem to know anything about logarithms, even though we see and hear in log scales. How did this happen?” If they are lacking in core technical skills, he also felt that they were missing the artistic sensibilities, too. “If I ask camera students who their favourite artist or photographer is, they look at me blankly,” he said. Appropriately, then, the first session focused on skills that employers need. Both Chris Owen, head of cameras at ITV, and Douglas Fletcher, operations director at CTV said they did take new graduates, but they saw them very much as trainees who need considerable further work before they can be useful to their new employers. They emphasised the need for students to be self starters, too. Owen said that he received applicants from students who had identified studio multi-camera operations as their future, who had never been inside a studio. “We have 3000 people a week as audiences in The London Studios – why have they not done that. This is something I criticise the universities for.” To help, ITV Studios runs a six week summer placement scheme, giving them two weeks with cameras, sound and lighting. They typically get 200 – 300 applications for around 12 places. At CTV Fletcher recruits around nine students a year from around 120 applications, for those who want to work in outside broadcasts. “This is expensive for us,” he said. “We can’t send them out as engineers, and we get no money from our clients for them.” Peter Leverick, now running the New Leaf Academy as an alternative training route for camera operators, raised another issue, that having the individual skills is not enough. “They need to know about teamwork, and they need to know how to deal with performers, in a diplomatic but positive way.” The university approach Perhaps the central argument of the day was the role of universities in training. With a lot of heads of department from the more active universities in the room there was, unsurprisingly, a lot of enthusiasm for degree courses. 82 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 86 FEBRUARY 2014 But on the other hand, many voices – who would perhaps accept the description “old school professionals” – wanted to see much more vocational training. Peter Leverick felt that a three year degree course is too long. “Students want to come away with a piece of paper that says ‘I have a degree’,” he felt. “Better would be a one year foundation course which looks at the theory, and gives them the chance to decide which discipline they are going to follow, with a “day release” programme to take new entrants into the business to do modular courses at colleges.” One comment from the floor argued that universities were too academic. That was countered with another voice, pointing out that Buckinghamshire University has its own outside broadcast unit that covers every Watford home game as well as music and dance events. Ralph Tribe from Sky said “we have come out very firmly in favour of apprenticeships and vocational training. If the debate is about employability, we think apprenticeships are the best solution. “If you consider content as an industry, it is really in a resurgent phase. For us, it is about competing in a market where there are not enough skills to go around. That is a pretty exciting place to be.” One of the most interesting aspects of the day was that the technical