Industry players warmly welcome impending introduction of centre of excellence in technical production skills in South Africa

This was at a technical production summit hosted by the South African Roadies Association, in Johannesburg yesterday where Adrian Brooks, founder of internationally reputed UK based educational institution, Academy of Live Technology and his senior executives addressed delegates.

By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor

The area of live and technical production is growing globally, and the need for skills in this area keeps on growing, and therefore young people with the right education stand a better chance of gainful employment in this area of the entertainment industry. This is the main message the founder of the UK leading technical production institution Backstage Academy, now called Academy of Live Technology Brooks told delegates at a technical summit hosted by the South African Roadies Association (SARA) at the Holiday Inn Hotel in Parktown Johannesburg, Tuesday, September 12, 2023.09.12.

“Our campus based within Production Park in the UK has been skilling young people in the UK in the past 10 years, and we are now going globally with another campus in the US and currently partnering with stakeholders in the technical production industry in Saud Arabia to establish a similar institution. South Africa is therefore another region that we are currently working with stakeholders to establish another Campus of the Academy of Live Technology. Not only will this campus play an important role nationally in skilling young people, but will use Sara as the centre of excellence for the African continent as a whole,” said Brooks before introducing his team from the ALT, Rachel Nicholson, Head of Institution and Emma Cook Director of Student Support and Experience.

The two executives then took turns to give an overview of the role ALT is playing in skilling live technical personnel involved in staging some of the prestigious live events in the UK and around the world.  It is because of the increasing demand for technically trained personnel working in a variety of areas of the live events industry, such as stage managers, lighting designers, sound engineers and riggers, to name but just a few of the crucial clutch of skills needed in creating magic on stage for live events, that ALT is upscaling its tentacles around the world.

Cook and Nicholson unveiled a comprehensive curricula offered by ALT, which they said is linked to technological advancement of the ever technology driven live events sector. Their curriculum, that they looking forward to rolling out in South Africa through the Newtown based SARA, is based on industry based practice and is developed closely with the needs of the industry in mind. It is this model that the institutions wants to introduce in South Africa, in collaboration with industry role players, such as SARA and others. Their curriculum is embedded partly in the model of academic grounding and industry practical experience that their students are introduced to during the duration of their education, the visiting executives emphasised, in their comprehensive presentation, which was received warmly by the local industry representatives comprising industry players both in the public sector and private sector. There were representatives from among other public institution the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, which is working closely with SARA to realise the fruition of ALT in South Africa, Department of Higher Education and Training, the training sector authorities and the South African National Qualification Authority among others.

SARA which for years has been training mainly young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, some of whom are currently plying their trade overseas, has had its building in Newtown renovated with the support of DSAC, which put over R20 million into the bui9lkding’s renovations, completed last year. Vusimuzi Mkhize, the former Director-General of DSAC, who in that position was crucial in  smoothing the discussions between the government and SARA regarding the renovations at SARA House, also addressed the gathering in the capacity of his new position, Chief Executive Officer of the South African Human Rights Commission.

Mkhize likened the need to impart skills technical skills to young people especially from disadvantaged backgrounds, who during apartheid were denied such opportunities as a human rights imperative, quoting extensively from the Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

“These skills are skills of the future. The contribution of the Creative and cultural sector to the economy is huge. According the Cultural Observatory, operating under the auspices of DSAC, the sector contributes 3% to the economy of the country, and this is equal to the contribution of the Agricultural Sector as a whole to the Gross Domestic Product,”Mkhize emphasised.

The planned launch of this centre of excellence in South Africa are being spearheaded by SARA in association with DSAC and other relevant departments in government in association with other players in the live events sector. SARA was founded by outspoken cultural activist  Freddie Nyathela who often finds himself at loggerheads with particularly  public institutions when it comes to his activism in the cultural and creative space, especially relating to skills training among the youth of South Africa.

However it was not clear when this institution will eventually open its doors to students in South Africa. ALT offers a wide range of courses ranging from a few months long to masters degrees in different aspects of the live events technical production skills for both new and young people getting into the industry to those seasoned in the sector.

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