UK’s first Apprenticeship Standard for Camera Technicians now open for registration

Back in 2019, 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 after 18 months of work and planning and setbacks endured due to COVID, the new “Camera Tech” Apprenticeship Standard is now formally recruiting for its first cohort of apprentices, which will start in mid August 2021.

The idea was that this programme would include a high level of training in order to enable school leavers to enter our industry and at the end of the programme, become fully-trained camera technicians with a full-time job and this new route into the TV industry is finally going to become a reality.

[Above image: Jack Cherrington, who started with VMI as an intern back in 2015 and was promoted to Senior Technician three years later in 2018.]

Bristol Technician, Matt Heath, started as a trainee technician and left to go freelance and has worked on Dr Who, Dark Materials, Trial of Christine Keeler etc.

The TV Industry along with many other industries had been badly affected by a universal shutdown in shooting during the Spring and Summer of 2020 but at last the green shoots of recovery are upon us and the confidence amongst all rental companies has given the confidence to agree the date of our first intake of apprentices to be this summer after all.

There is a lot riding on the success of the first cohort of apprentices, since we hope that this will become a regular route for school-leaver-entry into our industry.

The ‘Trailblazer Group’ comprising of several rental companies, continued to be active during the lock-down, appraising all four potential training organisations and has selected the London Screen Academy (LSA) to be the chosen Training Provider of the apprenticeship over the two year course.

The date of the first intake is now confirmed to be mid August 2021 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, spending 1 day per week studying at a training provider/college on day-release during the 2-year course. The process will begin with a 2-week block of training to familiarise all apprentices with each other and introduce them to the fundamentals of their new industry, after which apprentices will commence work with their employers and attend day release training one day per week.

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 have received funding for high level training. Whilst in some situations sponsoring companies would need to fund training of older recruits, other options are also being explored.

A 2-year training programme which will take place whilst the Apprentice is working and will lead to a new Level 3 qualification recognised by the TV Industry.  Recruiting apprentices straight from school and training them whilst working over a 2-year period, ought to both ensure a steady stream of trained technicians at the end of the process and increase the likelihood that they will stay in post after their training has completed. 

The existing route into the industry sees Graduates joining camera rental companies as interns and then receiving ad-hoc on-the-job training, after which new candidates often leave their jobs once they are trained, which is unsatisfactory for everyone.

Final meeting of the Trailblazer team to complete the Apprenticeship standard.
The planning phase concluded with the final meeting on the 15th January 2020 to design the Assessment process and which involved more than 25 individuals from 10 rental companies and training providers.  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.
You can be sure that this would involve Zoom today!

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 Camera Professionals), GBCT (Guild Of British Camera Technicians), Park Royal Business Group (PBRG) and a large number of camera rental companies.

Barry Bassett, Managing Director of VMI, dreamt up the project after he discovered that both VMI and many other camera rental companies were finding it increasingly difficult to recruit and retain camera technicians, so the idea was hatched to offer an alternative entry into the TV industry instead of attending university.  His idea was that formal vocational training could result in a formal recognised qualification and a full-time job which would suit local adults.

Barry persuaded the Institute for Apprenticeships (IoC) that there was an Industry skills shortage, after which they agreed to work with him to design a new standard. By working with SkillSkills, a group of Rental Companies creatively known as the Trailblazer Group was set up to design the full standard. This group initially included VMI, S+O Media, Panavision, Movietech, ARRI Rental, Shoot Blue, CVP, Focus 24, Shift-4, Brownian Motion, Take-2 and also CVP and later interest was expressed from Pro Motion, Aimimage, Luna Remote Systems, Visual Impact 24-7 & Pixi Pixel and also No Drama and Provision from Manchester and Progressive Media in Scotland. Word continues to spread and several companies not originally involved are now keen to be involved but will only commit when they are confident that business will return to acceptable levels, hence the reason for the continued delay.

Most companies comprising the Trailblazer group, plan to take on 1 or 2 apprentices with the first intake and the aim is that successful candidates will finish their 2-year apprenticeship by being awarded a Level 3 qualification once they have completed all the training and pass their assessment module in 2023.

By building an industry education before potentially moving out into the freelance world or another industry role, we can hopefully expect to generate both a higher quality of crew and also a tangible benefit to our entire industry. 

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, 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 £22,500 which will rise over time. (2021 living wage London rate). 

Operation’s Manager, Michael White with Technician Andre Pinto.

The apprenticeship has been launched on the Government IoC website.

After several false starts, the Apprenticeship Standard Application Process is now formally open for applications and will close sometime in May 2021. Any companies wishing to signify their interest in taking on “Camera Tech” apprenticeships in August or any individuals wishing to be considered as a potential apprenticeship candidate, should register their interest with the Next Gen Skills Academy by clicking on this link.

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