Celebrations and Reactions at the Launch of New Qualification
CX Magazine attended the launch of the highly anticipated New Zealand Certificate in Performing Arts – Entertainment and Event Technology (Level 4), held appropriately enough in the Auckland Arts Festival Spiegeltent in Aotea Square.
Relief was written all over President of ETNZ Vicki Cooksley’s face as she addressed the sixty strong crowd and described the release of this new qualification as “a massive milestone”.
The journey began some fifteen years ago when a group of senior industry people acknowledged that there was a complete lack of appropriate qualifications. Overseas qualifications were investigated and ruled out as they failed to meet New Zealand’s regulatory environment and were too tight in scope.
ETNZ and their membership wanted something much wider that would cater for all disciplines from stage management, to lighting, to sound, to rigging.
At that point naively unaware of the amount of work involved, a subcommittee was set up to lead the development of a new suite of qualifications,. Their mantra was ‘clear, credible and accessible’. This was to be a qualification that people could undertake in the workplace, whether they were working full-time, or as freelancers, casuals or volunteers.
The qualification was to include core business skills to support legitimate career pathways. There was not to be any of the pressure of exams and essays, rather the focus was to be on practical, hands on unit standards that could be assessed by industry personnel willing to be trained up as assessors.
Vicki describes their vision as, “Wanting to help people achieve something that they never thought they could do.”
Skills Active were the Industry Training Organisation (ITO) who won over the sub-committee. In the words of Graham Phillips, one of the initiators of the project, “They understood that we didn’t want to replicate what happens at Polytechnics, that this was to be entirely different.”
Together ETNZ and Skills Active began a somewhat arduous journey to develop a practical, cost-effective and formal on-the-job training framework.
Whilst celebrating the launch and the journey to date, Vicki also called for patience as they “continue along this winding path.”
Much work is still to be done, with a Level 6 Diploma in development and the need now recognised for a Level 5 qualification. Vicki did acknowledge that now they know how to get around and through the NZ Qualification Authority (NZQA), they are in a much stronger place to deliver the next set of qualifications.
Even amidst the air of abject relief and possibly the imminent collapse of the key players, there was still talk of next steps, online courses and the phrase ‘the sky’s the limit’ was even overheard.
As an industry, it is worth acknowledging the sentiments expressed by Linda Dorrington, the Skills Active Industry Advisor who worked alongside Vicki and her team to achieve this qualification,
“An awful lot of passionate people made this happen. Without these industry people and the huge amount of industry input, this would never have happened.
“It is a special day for a very special and specialist group of people who make so many wonderful events possible – the riggers, the lighting people, the stage constructors.”
Photos from the launch courtesy Skills Active Aoteoroa.
Perspectives on the New Qualifications Framework
Theatre Company Director
Eve Gordon was at the launch as a student on the pilot course and as the multitasking founder, General Manager, Artistic Director, Producer and Performer for the Dust Palace Circus Theatre Company.
It makes financial sense for Eve to do her own rigging and she had been searching for a course for close to fifteen years to extend her knowledge.
After the new Health & Safety Act came into effect, as a PCBU (Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking) she seriously considered undertaking a course in Australia even though the time commitment would have been arduous. Fortunately, as Chairperson of the Aotearoa NZ Circus Association she learnt of the imminent pilot of the new Level 4 qualification,
“I was overjoyed on a personal level and hugely appreciative of all work that had been done. I wanted to contribute in any way I could to the process. Coming from a slightly different sector to others on the pilot course, I felt I might be able to add something.”
Eve expects to gain from the course on many levels. She will be better trained, and this will filter down through her business to the freelancers that she works with, to the point that at some time in the future she will only employ qualified personnel,
“I think we are generally pretty good as an industry but there is nothing wrong with raising standards to achieve a base level of competency across the board.”
She will also have more clout when working with event managers and their clients,
“People always want more but I will be able to insist that we meet industry standards and use best practice and I can now back that up with evidence.” Lastly she fully intends to advocate for the course throughout the circus industry,
“Nobody untrained should be rigging.”
And feedback on the course to date, “The Skills Active model is genius, especially for a rigger. It is focused on competencies and I just have to pull together some case studies. Plus I have Andrew Gibson and Vicki Cooksley as assessors. You couldn’t get much more experience than that?”
Production Management Company
Andre Goldsmith was one of a few who travelled all the way from Christchurch to the launch to show their support and appreciation for the people who had made this happen. Andre, Managing Director of Hang Up and now a qualified assessor for the course, talked about his interest from a business perspective.
In his opinion, the 120 credit qualification is an opportunity for his seasoned staff to have their experience acknowledged not only in New Zealand but overseas. And secondly, it legitimizes professional outfits, and makes it easier for paying customers to separate the cowboys from the genuine article.
Richard Wiltshire, Operations Manager at Burnside High School’s 700 seat theatre, Aurora Centre, was not at the launch but was frequently referenced when the potential of the new qualifications’ framework was discussed.
Richard, recently retired from his “other role” of science teacher to focus on the school’s community theatre, supports a group of forty students from Year 9 to 13 who are passionate about lighting, sound, front of house and stage construction and management.
One team run the school assemblies and events held in the fully professional theatre, whilst other students have moved on to paid work, operating the sound, lighting and running the front of house for client productions such as local dance and primary schools.
Of this group, four Year 13 students are undertaking the Level 3 qualification launched last year. The Level 3 qualification is being funded by the Gateway Programme, a government initiative widely regarded as a means for students to enter the more traditional ‘trades’ but also applicable to entertainment technology.
The students attend a number of weekend courses and spend their Monday afternoons with Richard, as well as working on the theatre’s client productions. The course consists of some written tasks but is predominantly evidence-based, with students choosing a task and reflecting on how they did, whilst Richard in his role as assessor observes them and gives them feedback,
“It is by nature an introductory level course but promotes operational safety and an understanding of the workplace and students can choose sound, or lighting, or front of house or even stage management as their focus.”
Richard is excited about the possibilities that the Level 4 qualification offers his protégé’s,
“My students are in a position to be able to do the Level 4 qualification in their own time, with Burnside High as their employer, with myself as an observer and mentor and with a local Level 4 assessor on hand.
“I need to work on some logistics such as funding, but I hope to be able to offer the course for the students working in the school’s theatre in the near future.”
A model, which if replicated at schools with similar facilities elsewhere in the country, will hopefully grow the pool of young people who can see a viable and professional career path in the entertainment and event technology industry, and perhaps begin to alleviate the nationwide skills shortage.
And Across the Ditch?
Watch this space. Back in the beginning there was no interest from Australia but ETNZ leaders are sensing a change of heart. Rumour has it there may even be some Aussies crossing the ditch to attend the ETNZ conference in July to learn more…
The Entertainment and Event Technology qualification (Level 4) is designed for working professionals in real-life industry settings. The trainee chooses two out of seven areas of specialty: Entertainment Rigging, Lighting, Live Sound, Video, Stage Management, Stage Mechanics and Scenic Construction.
Cost: $1380 incl GST.
To register for the course, visit the Skills Active website:
Skills Active are an ITO, one of a number of non-profit organisations, funded by government to promote careers and workforce development in our industries, work with those industries to create world-class qualifications, and support workplaces to train staff.
CX Magazine – May 2019 CX Magazine is Australia and New Zealand’s only publication dedicated to entertainment technology news and issues – available in print and online. Read all editions for free or search our archive www.cxnetwork.com.au
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Lead image courtesy Dust Palace Circus Theatre Company.