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Sign careers events halted by Covid-19 as NSW records a rise in apprenticeships

Nationwide careers events aimed at promoting signage & graphics apprenticeships have been brought to “a grinding halt” by Covid-19, but new statistics show an encouraging increase in sign apprenticeship completions for the period July 2019-July 2020.

dean watters at Printex19
     John Watters (right) of AusSIP with students at Printex19

“Pre-COVID19, the strategy was that we were going to be attending careers events around Australia,” said John Watters, executive officer of the Australian Schools Industry Partnership (AusSIP). “From there we were going to get the kids interested, get their names and details and then work with local TAFEs to provide an industry taster, which would involve hands-on activities at the TAFE and also visiting employers. Due to COVID19 this has come to a grinding halt. A lot of the TAFES have shut down and businesses can't host guests, especially kids.

“Unlike other traditional construction industries such as carpentry, signs and graphics is an industry that is emerging.  When you talk about things to students they can have some idea but it’s when they actually engage with hands-on activities — that’s when they get fully engaged,” Watters said.

“With the sign and graphics industry it’s a long-term burn. It’s a long-term solution. When we get kids involved we don’t want them just to stay there for 3 or 6 months, we want them to finish their apprenticeship. When you get the right kids, they will stay and get them engaged, they stick and they complete their apprenticeships. We don’t want a situation where we have churn and burn on the premises.’

careerlinkspicThe Australian Sign & Graphics Association (ASGA) collaborated with AusSIP and Visual Connections in July this year to exhibit at the NSW Department of Education’s My Journey Virtual Expo 2020 (pictured right).

Looking beyond Covid-19, Watters believes skill shortages will continue, especially if there is a major upswing in the economy.

“Across the country in every industry, career programs will become more important than ever because young people are the ones who suffer the most in any recession," he said.

“2020 was going to be the year we start to proliferate what we’ve done in NSW. It was going to involve a whole stack of careers events and a whole stack of exposures and really trying to make things work. That challenge remains and it will still remain after COVID.”

Meanwhile, encouraging statistics published on the Apprenticeship Engagement Forum (AEF) website show that apprenticeship completions in the signs and graphics area were up in NSW by 36.84% for the period July 2019 – July 2020:

asga apprent AEF stats

Watters says that while AusSIP could claim that much of this result comes down to its recent work in NSW, it’s more likely there are multiple factors at work.

“Sign and graphics are one of the few industries that have tried to do something proactively to address the skills shortage issue. It’s not sitting back and waiting for a government hand out and waiting for pixies and unicorns.”

Despite Covid-19 putting on hold AusSIP’s plan to promote the sign and graphics industries at nationwide careers events, ASGA says it is continuing to consult on industry training requirements and will keep its members updated.

A short video on the involvement of ASGA, Visual Connections and AusSIP at Printex 2019 


A version of this article originally appeared in the September newsletter issued by ASGA general manager Michael Punch.