The new Apprenticeship Standard for Camera Prep Technicians is planning to expand after a successful first season launch.

Rental houses VMI, PixiPixel, Movietech, CVP, Cineark, Pro Motion Hire and Brownian Motion are currently signed up as employers for 2022.

Last summer, nine trainees became the first cohort of apprentices to participate in a two-year programme during which they will be trained to Senior Technician standard.

They will emerge in August 2023 with a formal level 3 NVQ qualification recognised across the industry. Most are guaranteed a job at the camera rental company that currently employs them as part of successfully completing the scheme.

The next intake, due to start this August, is expected to recruit at least 20 applicants into the camera rental industry giving a boost to the industry-wide skills shortage.

“Every apprentice has had glowing reviews from their employers,” said Mik Nelson, Assistant Principal at the training and facilities provider London Screen Academy (LSA). “We are hoping to engage many more companies to build on the successes of the current cohort for the 2022 entry.”

The project was instigated in 2019 by VMI MD, Barry Bassett. ScreenSkills and The Institute of Apprenticeships (IoC) worked with training programme developer SkillSet to design and approve the new standard. Several rental companies also collaborated to design and formalise the standard which was approved in 2020.

The venture has the support of other organisations 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) and Park Royal Business Group (PBRG).

Camera rental companies also backing the scheme include Luna Remote, Alan Wells, Shoot Blue and DV Talent.

Sponsoring companies for 2022 will commit to taking students in March. A selection event planned for this Spring will filter applicants.

“What is key to employers is that a low first year salary plus a £2K Government grant helps to offset the training cost,” explains Bassett. VMI has three apprentices working at its London and Bristol sites as part of the scheme.  “The £11K training course is 95% paid by the Government or from the Levy fund of levy-paying companies.  Either way, the employers pay very little towards the apprentice training but have everything to gain.”

The sponsoring companies play an active role in the scheme and are planning further collaboration in order to add value to the training process.  Initiatives such as providing training to the group to use specialist equipment and structured job-shares will widen the experience of the trainees. After feedback from other rental companies, LSA is investigating reducing the training period from two years to 18 months, to increase the speed of full-trained technicians entering the industry.

“By training them straight from school whilst they are in full-time paid employment ought to ensure a steady stream of trained technicians at the end of the process,” Bassett says.

At the end of the formal training period, successful apprentices can expect to receive full employment on a good salary. VMI pays newly qualified apprentices a minimum starting salary of £22,500 which will rise over time.

“Young talent are more likely to stay in post before potentially moving out into the freelance world or another industry role. Moreover, by delivering such a practical grounding we can hopefully ensure a higher quality of crew for the future of UK TV and film,” said Bassett.

Jon Creamer

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