by Anni Rowland-Campbell, Executive Director, GAMAA
“Education is the ability to perceive the hidden connections between phenomena.”
In a recent article in Australian Printer (November 2003) Frank Romano stated that the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in the US is teaching its students “how to think in a more organised way – how to understand any job, to continue to learn”. For Romano there is a difference between training and education because, “education gives you a higher level of ability to solve problems”.
This “higher level of ability” is something that all workers in our industry need, and is becoming the focus of a number of initiatives now being developed.
Among those initiatives are three highly complementary offerings which may, if supported and championed by the industry, assist the industry to ensure its’ competitiveness, profitability and sustainability into the 21st century.
The training “industry”
For anyone managing a company, regardless of size and industry, it is becoming necessary to appropriately invest in the training and education of people. For much of our history the “graphic communications and technologies” industry has relied on the competitive advantage provided by new technologies which have contributed directly to increased efficiencies, and from there to profits. As these technologies become increasingly sophisticated – but also less differentiated in terms of the actual printing process itself – it is becoming less advantageous to rely on technology alone. In particular for rapidly changing industries, of which we are a prime example, it is becoming obvious that, in the words of Shell’s Arie De Gues, “managers have to shift their priorities, from running companies to optimise capital, to running companies to optimise people. People, in these companies, are the carriers of knowledge and therefore the source of competitive advantage.” (Arie De Gues, “The Living Company”).
If this is the case then managers, and those who control and allocate resources for the training and education of people, need to seriously consider how they can most effectively and productively allocate those resources.
Let us consider, for a moment, what this means.
In general there are three areas in which an organisation can make an “educational investment” to assist it’s people to perform more effectively within the workplace. Firstly a company can invest in developing “Technical” skills and competencies, largely industry and technology specific, which has traditionally been the domain of the TAFE colleges and vocational courses; secondly there are “Generic” or “Performance” skills and competencies, mainly managerial business skills which can be utilised across a range of industries, and which is where university degrees and “professional” courses fit in; finally there are “Adaptive” or “Performance” skills and competencies (largely those of leadership and the ability to see the “big picture”).
This is the domain of personal development, coaching and mentoring, and Executive Development programmes. In Frank Romano’s terms each level comes with an increased ability to solve problems at a higher level, and thus, each relates directly to the demands expected of individuals at various levels of an organisation, from the print-room to the Board-room.
The diagram (A) gives an indication of the balance between these three types of educational investment in most businesses and organisations.
Now, let us consider the relative economic value to an organisation of an individual employee (measured in terms of revenue generated, product manufactured, relationships with customers etc) and evidenced by the salary and remuneration packages that are given. In a capitalist economy those who generate the most value to a company (in terms of economic productivity) are those who are remunerated the most (as illustrated below).
So, what do these two diagrams represent? Firstly, it would seem that there is an inverse relationship between the amount of “educational investment” and the “relative value” to the companies, i.e. most of the investment is being made in the skills and competencies which have the least impact on the ‘bottom line’.
Secondly, with the large focus on “technical” investment there is a lack of both “generic” and “adaptive” knowledge within organisations due to the lack of educational investment in the people who are required to utilise these competencies in their day-t-day work. Finally, for school leavers and young people considering the industry as a career, there seems to be little investment in “progressive learning”, in the encouragement of people to keep learning as they take on greater responsibilities and become more valuable to their companies. In short there is no “pathway” to the future.
The scene of Industry Education – 2004
Much of this has been talked about previously and, in fact, the key recommendations of Print21 (which have spawned many of the recent projects being undertaken within the industry) are that “profitable business development will depend on strategies that creatively integrate:
- Clever business strategy based on sound knowledge and in-depth understanding of existing and potential customer needs
- Appropriate use of print technology;
and, most importantly,
- ‘Patient investment by firms in the professional development of people'” (Print21 Executive Summary, p 7)
So, where does that leave us in 2004?
Pathways in Career Development – Print and Graphic Technologies
There are a number of very exciting initiatives either already developed or in the pipeline which can be considered within the following framework:
GAMAA’s Education Scholarship Programme
GAMAA has developed a programme to assist middle to senior managers in undertaking further education to develop both their generic and adaptive skills and competencies, through the partial funding of degree and Masters programmes at Australian universities in business or management education.
The academic studies deliver the “generic” education to students, and this is complemented by both residential workshops (conducted with the Melbourne Business School) and a mixture of mentoring and coaching development, which deliver the ‘adaptive’ education.
RMIT University Degree in Graphic Technology
Howard Dare and Melanie Williams, together with their team at RMIT and a large number of industry advisors, have been working extremely hard to develop a “Degree” programme which is largely aimed at providing people either currently in the industry and wanting to further their careers, or aspiring entrants to the industry who want a “career path” with a programme which will deliver many of the “generic” competencies, specifically tailored around the needs of the industry and the demands of the “skills” of the vocation.
Note: RMIT offer a comprehensive suite of programmes which run from VET level training right through to post graduate. This offering enables students to experience all levels of the competencies from technical through to adaptive.
Print Training Australia
Andrew McGowan and his team at Print Training Australia have developed a customised Certificate IV and a Diploma programme for supervisors, team leaders and managers to “gain the expertise to make a greater contribution to organisational goals and apply management skills in the workplace”. With the support of the PIAA the first of these will be delivered in NSW early this year, and the programme will deliver some modular education (through workshops and Action Plans) which will largely address the interface between the “skills” level of the “print room” and the “generic” level of managing the overall process itself, aligned with the overall business proposition of the organisation.
The path ahead
“A leader is one who takes the hardship of finding a better way of doing things for the common good and then selflessly shares the knowledge with others by guiding them on that path.” (Avijit Dutta)
The whole issue of education in our industry is one which is now very firmly on the agenda and it is a very exciting time for us all. Vital to our survival in the longer term is the recognition by the community in general (and, to a large degree ourselves) of the inherent value of the “craft” of which we have been the custodians since print became a major force in the development of human communication.
If we are to meet this challenge and continue to deserve both the recognition and support we seek, to attract young people to take up careers within our industry, and to help it evolve and meet new market needs, then we will have to invest in helping our people to adapt to the demands of the modern “knowledge economy” by providing them with a way forward in terms of personal development as leaders of the future – a path forward.
As an industry we have a tremendous range of people who all willingly give their time and energy to moving us forward. We now have the opportunity to leverage that to ensure that the way forward is one which is going to lead to a prosperous and sustainable future, where we can lead rather than be led, where we can innovate rather than merely produce, and where we can ensure that those who give us their knowledge and skills are rewarded by patient investment in helping them develop, both professionally and personally.
GAMAA’s Leadership Workshops for 2004 are:
- “Thinking Strategically” to be held at the Melbourne Business School from Friday 26th to Sunday 28th March, 2004 inclusive.
- “Developing Leadership” to be held in Sydney from Friday 27th to Sunday 29th August, 2004 inclusive.
The cost of attending the live-in workshops is $2,950 all inclusive (with the exception of transport). There are a very limited number of positions available for each of the Workshops. For information, or to apply to attend a GAMAA Leadership Workshop, contact Pam Fairnington at GAMAA on (02) 9417 7433 or (0409) 241 177.
Anni Rowland-Campbell is currently researching for a PhD entitled “Growing Entrepreneurial Leaders for the Graphic Media industries into the 21st Century” at the Open University Business School in the UK, in association with the London College of Printing.