Vocational education and training is the ideal space for imaginative minds, with a wide range of career paths in the creative industries.
Interior decorators, photographers, fashion designers, visual merchandisers, theatre workers and artists all often begin their careers with a certificate or diploma to learn the practical skills that will get them a foot in the door.
Some creative occupations are assumed to require university studies but in fact do not.
For example, two in five music professionals have not been to university and about a third of Australia’s graphic and web designers and illustrators have a vocational qualification, Employment Department figures show.
Christopher Avery, a 2014 Australian Training Awards Vocational Student of the Year Award finalist, studied an Advanced Diploma of Applied Fashion Design and Technology at the Melbourne School of Fashion.
His designs and collections have since been showcased nationally and internationally and featured in magazines.
He has worked on collaborative projects to produce custom-designed knitwear and jewellery, as well as with professionals from across the fashion industry.
“If I can make someone feel true about who they are through the dress that I make, then my job as a designer is complete,” Avery says.
Music is another industry where career paths often begin with vocational training.
Ciaran Gribbin, solo artist and lead singer of INXS since 2011, says the music industry has changed significantly since he began but opportunities still exist for people prepared to work hard.
“In the last 10 years with the advent of free downloads, the revenue streams for artist from the sales of records have changed greatly but the way the internet and world is set up, the connection an artist can have with fans across the world is instant,” he says.
“It’s as simple as writing a song on a laptop, uploading it and you have the potential to reach people directly. It’s cut out the middle men. If you have talent and good work ethic and you learn how to connect and package yourself then the world is your oyster.”
Gribbin, who will perform at the free Skills and Thrills Showcase in Penrith later this month as part of National Skills Week, says he is a huge supporter of vocational education – both in creative fields and traditional trades.
“My dad was a carpenter and all of my friends were tradies,” he says.
“I built my own house with my dad and from a young age I have been on building sites.
“When I left school (at 16), apart from gigging at the weekend, I was working on building sites. I worked in one of Europe’s biggest trailer manufacturers.
“Probably if I wasn’t doing music, I would have happily went down that route.”
In his music career, however, Gribbin has enjoyed huge success, from playing at Glastonbury music festival and fronting INXS to writing music for Madonna and being nominated for a Grammy.
He now runs Rock and Roll Team Building, providing entertainment for corporate events and music-focused team building workshops.
For young people starting out in music or any career path, Gribbin recommends they trust their intuition.
“Go out pretty hard and don’t waste time but also be true to yourself and make sure you are happy doing what you do,” he says.
“If you think you can enjoy it, don’t stop, grab it with both hands, and keep going.”
The free Skills and Thrills careers showcase and concert will be held at Evans Theatre, Panthers Penrith on August 29 at 3.30pm, 4.30pm and 5.15pm.
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