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The industry’s supplier association Visual Connections is making a significant expansion to its Education Initiative for next year, and beyond, to encompass the entirety of the graphic arts trade.

The programme is set to expand from sign, display, wide-format print and graphics, to cover commercial print, labels, and packaging and textile printing, with the co-operation of trade associations Fespa Australia, FPLMA, LIA and PVCA.

Time: Peter Harper, CEO, Visual Connections
Right time: Peter Harper, CEO, Visual Connections

The Visual Connections Education Initiative involves inviting senior school students from Years 10, 11 and 12 to attend industry expos where they can see the diversity and opportunities offered by the industry, and take part in ‘Try-A-Trade’ workshops and careers discussions run by AusSIP and TAFE partners. Visual Connections is the owner and organiser of the Visual Impact and Label & Packaging expos, and co-host and organiser of PacPrint Melbourne and Sydney.

The second stage sees the Australian Schools Industry Partnership (AusSIP) team, supported by industry volunteers and local TAFEs and RTOs, attend careers expos around the country to promote the industry through information, discussions and hands-on experiences. This year, well over 100 students expressed interest in taking up an apprenticeship, and Visual Connections is now working with AusSIP and Asga to connect them with potential employers and training opportunities.

The final stage, which is about to get underway for this year, involves a series of Industry Taster Days, where students with a qualified interest in moving into apprenticeships can gain a better understanding of working in the industry, by visiting selected businesses for a hands-on immersive experience in a real commercial environment.

The programme was piloted by the supplier association in 2015, to attract, engage, support and mentor new talent in the industry. It has since been running in partnership with the Australian Sign & Graphics Association (Asga) with an initial concentration on the sign, display and wide-format graphics sector.

Over that time, it has expanded across the country and has successfully increased the number of enrolments in the Certificate III for Sign & Graphics from 200 in 2017, to 700 in this year.

As well as a significant investment from Visual Connections, the initiative is sponsored by Amari Visual Solutions, Ball & Doggett, Cactus Imaging, Fujifilm Graphic Systems, Graphic Art Mart, Mulford Plastics, Orafol, Pozitive Sign & Graphics Supplies, Signarama and Starleaton. The FPLMA and MacDermid Graphic Solutions have also joined as financial supporters.

Now, the long-term partnership with Asga and these new agreements with Fespa Australia, the Flexible Packaging & Label Makers Association (FPLMA), the Lithographic Institute of Australia (LIA) and the Print & Visual Communications Association (PVCA), will allow for an expansion of the programme to cover the entire sector – something Visual Connections CEO, Peter Harper, says has long been the intent.

“Attracting new talent to our sector is one of the most critical challenges for the future, so we have worked closely with our colleagues at AusSIP to develop a successful model for engaging with students, inspiring and informing them about industry career paths, and connecting them to training and employment opportunities,” Harper explained.

“Right from the start, our aim was always to establish proof of concept in one area, before expanding the programme across the country and across the entire sector. With the expertise of AusSIP, a great partnership with Asga, and the support of generous industry sponsors, we have been able to make real progress towards that goal.

“Now, with the time right to involve the whole sector, we needed to complement our collaboration with Asga with the support of the industry associations who represent the wider aspects of the print and graphic communications sector."

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