VMI help to set up UK’s first Apprenticeship Standard for Camera Technicians

About 18 months ago, VMI Managing Director, Barry Bassett, first contacted the TV Industry body, ScreenSkills in order to investigate whether it might be possible to set up a formal apprenticeship standard for UK Camera Rental companies and which would include a high level of training in order to enable schoolleavers to enter our industry.  At the end of the programme, the intention was that they would become fully-trained camera technicians with a full-time job.

The Apprenticeship training programme is specifically aimed at 16-19 year-old school leavers, although this would also be open to existing adults who may have already received funding for high level training, though in some situations sponsoring companies would need to fund their training, although a plan is being formulated to share unspent levy funding from existing friendly industry levy-paying companies in order to facilitate this.  A 2-year training programme which will take place whilst the Apprentice is working, will lead to a new Level 3 qualification recognised by the TV Industry.  Furthermore, by recruiting apprentices straight from school and training them whilst working over 2-years, ought to insure a steady stream of trained technicians at the end of the process and who were also more likely to stay in post.  The existing process sees Graduates joining as interns and then receiving ad-hoc on the job training and which often sees new candidates often leaving their jobs once they are trained, which is unsatisfactory for everyone.

After 18 months of work and planning, the new “Camera Tech” Apprenticeship Standard was submitted for approval in February 2020 and we await a formal acceptance which is expected to come in April/May 2020, after which it will be ready for launch.  The first intake is planned to be in September 2020 and the Camera Rental Industry is expected to recruit around 20 applicants in its first year.  Apprentices will be paid and work/train 4 days of the week in a rental house and spend 1 day per week studying at an education provider/college on day-release on the 2-year programme.

The planning phase concluded with the final meeting on the 15th January, which involved designing the Assessment process.  More than 25 individuals from 10 rental companies and training providers were involved.  A great deal of thought had to go into designing the best method to test technical knowledge (multiple-choice questions), camera prep-tech skills (observation) and troubleshooting, specialist knowledge and approach (Discussion), as well as grade boundaries and definitions (see image).

A great many organisations have expressed support for this new venture including ASPEC (Studio & Production Equipment Companies) who represents a number of UK rental companies, GTC (Guild of TV Cameramen), GBCT (Guild Of British Camera Technicians), Park Royal Business Group (PBRG) and a great number of camera rental companies.

Barry Bassett from VMI instigated the project after he discovered that both VMI and many other camera rental companies had found it increasingly difficult to recruit and retain camera technicians, so the idea was hatched to offer an alternative entry to the TV industry to attending university.  Instead, his idea was that formal vocational training would result in a formal recognised qualification and a full-time job and suit local adults.

He persuaded the Institute of Apprenticeships (IoC) that there was an Industry skills shortage who approved the design of the new standard and working with SkillSet, a group of Rental Companies creatively known as the Trailblazer Group, included VMI, S+O Media, Panavision, Movietech, ARRI Rental, Shoot Blue, CVP, Focus 24, Shift-4, Brownian Motion, Take-2 and also CVP to designed the full standard.  Later, Pro Motion, Aimimage, Visual Impact 24-7 & Pixi Pixel expressed an interest in the programme and also from Manchester with both No Drama and Provision expressing an interest to be involved.

Most companies comprising the Trailblazer group, plan to take on 2 apprentices when the scheme is formally launched in September 2020 and the aim is that successful candidates will finish their 2-year apprenticeship by being awarded an Level 3 qualification when they have completed all the training and passws their assessment module at the end of 2022.

The clear aim of the project is to create a formal training scheme to school leavers and fully-train entrants, thus providing a greater incentive to remain in employment with their company for longer.  By building on their industry education before potentially moving out into the freelance world or another industry role, we can hopefully ensure both a higher quality of crew and also a tangible benefit to our industry as a whole. 

Most importantly, at the end of the formal 2-year training period, successful Apprentices are guaranteed a full-time position with the company recruiting them as apprentices and by being fully-trained too, they can certainly expect to receive a good salary too.

VMI are unusual, having been recognised as the UK’s first certified living wage camera rental company employer, which means that newly qualified apprentices completing their course will receive a minimum starting salary of £21,900 which will rise over time. (2019 living wage London rate). 

Barry has secured proposals from several Training Providers, mostly based West London, including West London College, London Skills Academy, All Spring Media and ETC and expects that the contract for the training of this new standard will be awarded to the successful Training Provider by late Spring.

The apprenticeship has been launched on the Government website, https://www.findapprenticeship.service.gov.uk/apprenticeshipsearch

The Apprenticeship Standard Application Process will open in April 2020 and any companies wishing to signify their interest in taking on “Camera Tech” apprenticeships in September or alternatively any individuals wishing to be considered as a potential apprenticeship candidate, click on the link below.

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