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NeilNewbie



Joined: 29/01/13
Posts: 3
Advice on getting into Live Sound Engineering
      #1031016 - 29/01/13 01:12 PM
Hi my names Neil im 28 from basingstoke

I am trying to get into Live Sound Engineering but am struggling on how to get into the industry

i work full time monday to friday as a technician but am looking to become a live sound engineer.

all the courses i look at are mainly in london and are also monday to friday which would be a problem with my work.

I am really pasionate about becoming a live sound engineer but really dont know where to start.

Is there anyone in the Basingstoke area on here who would give me some advice.

I have emailed my local theatre about coming down and helping for free in the evenings but to no avail.

any advice would be fantastic

many thanks

Neil.


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Mike Stranks
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Re: Advice on getting into Live Sound Engineering new [Re: NeilNewbie]
      #1031025 - 29/01/13 01:56 PM
Hi Neil and welcome!

A few questions, the answers to which will enable my colleagues and me the better to answer your questions:

- You say you're a 'technician'. Doing what?
- Do you play an instrument?
- Do you know anything about electronics and general electrical theory?
- What current qualifications do you have - in anything?
- Do you have your own car?
- Are there any 'significant others' in your life or are you free of all commitments?
- Why do you want to do this? What is the attraction?

Thanks! Mike


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The Red Bladder



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Re: Advice on getting into Live Sound Engineering new [Re: NeilNewbie]
      #1031027 - 29/01/13 02:10 PM
+1 on Mike's questions. Any meaningful answers are difficult, without knowing a whole lot more!

One thing is certain, at 28 you are a bit too old for an apprenticeship scheme or university. Also, live sound on a tour is done by very few people.

The largest tour I have ever worked on involved over 20 trucks of stuff and a crew of about 90. Of those, just five were sound guys - today you could probably get away with just three, thanks to automation, line-arrays and fibre optics! Drivers, riggers, a cook, lampies, projectionists, electricians, programmers for lighting, pyro-techs, stage hydraulics techs and even two teachers for the kids (children of key crew members) that came along, but just five sound guys. And today, that would almost certainly be just three sound guys.

For some reason, the music industry has a lemming-like hoard of youngsters banging on the door, wanting to do the one thing that we need the fewest of - sound.

Kids are not lining up ten-deep at the Wysuckie College for the Totally Dumb, wanting to become systems engineers, hydraulics specialists or pyrotechnics technicians. The trucking companies have to get their drivers and mechanics in the usual way, the lighting companies have to recruit their programmers and electricians and pay them properly. But talk to any major PA company and they will tell you, the postbag is not really complete without a few letters asking for a job as a sound engineer.

There are all sorts of careers within the music business that youngsters (and career guidance councillors) seldom, if ever, think of. Lawyers, accountants, drivers, electricians, leasing and finance agents, carpenters, systems engineers, lighting programmers, pyrotechnists, safety specialists, security guards, the list just goes on and on.

Until we know more about you, my 30 Cents worth would be to take a long hard look at rigging and lighting.


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NeilNewbie



Joined: 29/01/13
Posts: 3
Re: Advice on getting into Live Sound Engineering new [Re: Mike Stranks]
      #1031044 - 29/01/13 03:28 PM
Hi Mike thanks

im a pressure calibration technician

i dont play any instruments but do love live music of all genres.

i have no knowledge of electronics or electrical theory im very new to all this.

i dont drive but am saving to learn.i live with my girlfriend.

qualifications GCSE'S from A to D in various subjects and started a engineering degree on open university passed first year but have not started second year.

i want this because i love music and especially live music i want to get into a career i love and am passionate about before its to late and then be stuck doing a job i dont enjoy.

as i say im a newbie to all this and was after advice etc from you guys.

many thanks

Neil


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Happyandbored



Joined: 03/11/11
Posts: 46
Re: Advice on getting into Live Sound Engineering new [Re: NeilNewbie]
      #1031050 - 29/01/13 04:38 PM
Dear Neil,

I would seriously advise against spending your money and time on pursuing a career in live sound. Sound on Sound magazine may be an excellent read, featuring excellent tutorials and featuring glossy adverts from several prominent retailers of musical equipment for both live and studio use, but these days, there is little point learning the skills outlined in Sound on Sound's excellent articles or purchasing the equipment from said retailers, whose adverts fund this noble publication. This is because the music industry is dying and provides little practical advantage to our society or services that existing professionals can not already provide.

Have you considered an alternative career in landscape gardening? Many professional musicians have gardens but lack the time and expertise to properly maintain them. There are likely more gardens in need of tending than concerts requiring sound systems. It is really important to consider a *field* less in demand, if you wish to stand any chance of success working in the music industry.


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The Red Bladder



Joined: 05/06/07
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Re: Advice on getting into Live Sound Engineering new [Re: NeilNewbie]
      #1031054 - 29/01/13 05:11 PM
Live sound is going great guns! The studio scene is dying in most (but not all) regions, but people are going to concerts in record numbers!

BUT it is today a very technical and skilled field. The sound crew are more like systems engineers, than the grubby, gaffa-tape wielding, kit-humping (Gadd, how I loved that woman!) beer-swilling gorilla of the 60s to 90s. The desks are digital and connections are fibre optics. Speakers are now flown line-arrays and have to be carefully measured and calibrated. Rigs have to be inspected and signed off by the local building inspector. Roadies have to have all kinds of certificates as riggers, tele-handler drivers, safety techs and electricians.

And sound is now all automated, so we need fewer people, but with proper IT skills.!


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Mike Stranks
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Re: Advice on getting into Live Sound Engineering new [Re: NeilNewbie]
      #1031059 - 29/01/13 06:01 PM
Hi Neil

I think you should adopt a new strategy if you want to pursue this.

Forget training; you could spend loads on a course and still be unemployable at the end of it.

You say you are passionate about live music. That means you must know local venues where it's performed. Forget about emails; you need to engage with people face-to-face. During the interval if the spound person is not busy then go and have a chat with them. You'll get a lot of brush-offs but you will eventiually find someone who will 'engage'.

Ask about helping on a casual basis at weekends - for free. Most of us solo guys are often in need of someone who can help with the load-in and out and gradually start to do some rigging and cabling as they gain an understanding. Forget about going anywhere near the mixer for at least six months.

Do what you're told, be on time, be friendly and polite to your mentor and to venue staff/organisers. Don't try and be clever or smart - just be Mr nice-guy who's known for his willing and helpful nature and can be relied upon.

If you have the makings and have teamed-up with someone who knows what they're about they may start to let you have some hands-on during sound-check as they explain what they're doing and why. You may eventually be allowed to mix a solo singer/guitarist.

Find some books about live-sound and basic electricals - Ohms Law and all that - and read read read. Paul White's book on Live Sound would be a good starting point.

But will you ever be in a position to do this for a living? Probably not or if you do then you'll be self-employed and scratching a living. Bottom-line is 28 is very late to be starting-off on this road with no musical or electrical experience to give you a bump-start.

That's my take FWIW; happy to be contradicted by those who can demonstrate that it's been different for them.


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Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
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Re: Advice on getting into Live Sound Engineering new [Re: Mike Stranks]
      #1031064 - 29/01/13 06:30 PM
I'd say Mike is spot on in every area here. Read and digest carefully.

Unlike others, I don't see being 28 as a particularly negative thing. Most people change jobs every 7 years or so, often involving completely new directions and skill sets, and most people have a range of transferable skills that are relevant in their new chosen directions...

However, the high end live sound scene is exactly as the Bladder has described -- highly technical and sophisticated, and requiring a lot of specialist knowledge and experience. The days of the simple muscle-bound roadie is long gone! Knowledge and understanding of computer IT technology, digital audio systems, large room acoustics, video systems, automation and so on are a core requirement. Nothing to stop you from learning about such things in your own time, but it will take a while. Some of this is taught on bespoke courses, but employment opportunities are rare and you would be unlikely to recoup the course costs in a sensible timescale -- so I wouldn't recommend that approach. There are good books and magazines on the topics, and that would be where I'd suggest you start.

At the smaller scale end of things, there are plenty of one-man-band PA companies across the country who still put speakers on poles and run analogue multicores around the walls. However margins are tight and this isn't a career path that is going to generate a comfortable income as an employee. That's why most are one-man owner-occupier companies!

Nevertheless, most would be grateful for free muscle during the rig and derig as Mike has suggested, and once you have some contacts there will be opportiunities sooner or later to progress. Again, I would urge serious background reading to understand the technology involved -- how balanced cables work and why they are used, what ground loops are, why DI boxes offer a practical solution, and loads more basic analogue audio theory. Then there is speaker design radiation patterns, optimal placement strategies. Monitoring systems, how and why howlrounds occur and how to prevent them. The legal safety requirements when rigging cables and speakers, and the noise exposure law requirements.

Find out about all this stuff -- and a shed load more -- and you'll find yourself being recognised as a lot more use than a simple box shifter. And you'll get a lot more out of helping too.

Bottom line, though, is that expecting to earn a decent wage as a live sound technician is an unrealistic expectation. Most do it for the love and scratch by. By all means build up your experience and knowledge over weekends (if the girlfriend will tolerate it), and expand your contacts so gain more work. Maybe you'll see an opportunity that suits, but personally I'd have a reliable plan B to maintain a workable income...

H

--------------------
Technical Editor, Sound On Sound


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James PerrettModerator



Joined: 10/09/01
Posts: 10658
Loc: The wilds of Hampshire
Re: Advice on getting into Live Sound Engineering new [Re: NeilNewbie]
      #1031095 - 29/01/13 09:57 PM
All I can add is read Mike and Hugh's replies very carefully and then start networking. There are various relevant Basingstoke and Hampshire Facebook pages where you can find out about the grass roots music scene. Go to gigs and get to know people. Once people know your face they'll probably be more willing to let you help out and learn.

I found my way into doing bigger live gigs by working with friends' bands - I let them know that if they were doing a gig where they needed a sound engineer then I'd be interested. Fortunately a couple of them took me up on the offer and I ended up doing quite a few of the small/medium size venues in the South in the 80's.

James

--------------------
JRP Music - Audio Mastering and Restoration.
http://www.jrpmusic.net


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NeilNewbie



Joined: 29/01/13
Posts: 3
Re: Advice on getting into Live Sound Engineering new [Re: NeilNewbie]
      #1031165 - 30/01/13 12:48 PM
Id Just like to say thankyou to everyone for all your knowledge and advice

im going to buy some books about live sound and try and do a bit of networking at live gigs.

I have sent an email to my local theater the Anvil and had a lovely response saying send a CV in and they will try to get me in to help out as a volunteer.

So fingers crossed.

Thanks again to everybody who replied to the thread.

many thanks

Neil


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AlecSp



Joined: 16/11/04
Posts: 94
Re: Advice on getting into Live Sound Engineering new [Re: NeilNewbie]
      #1031178 - 30/01/13 01:25 PM
A very simple tip. Learn how to coil cable properly.

That way, if/when you get a small in, most techs/engineers will be only too happy for you to help out, and you would then likely see their level of trust in you, and what they'll let you do, increase. Also, smile, and offer to make everyone tea/coffee. All this works wonders!

As for actually getting any money for what you do, that's a whole different kettle of fish...


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The Red Bladder



Joined: 05/06/07
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Re: Advice on getting into Live Sound Engineering new [Re: NeilNewbie]
      #1031183 - 30/01/13 01:58 PM
Quote NeilNewbie:

started a engineering degree on open university passed first year but have not started second year.




Finish that first.

THEN think about being a sound guy. But remember, it is nowadays (as Hugh points out) a very technical and sophisticated career.

There are four ways into live sound -

1. You are mates with an unknown band and they just love the sound you get for them. Then they become famous and you get to continue as sound guy. (Though usually, they dump the numpty from early days, simply because he can't cope with the technology, particularly the IT side of things.)

2. You have a track record of live sound and a technical qualification (electrician, HNC electronics etc.) and you get taken on by a large PA company as an apprentice. An old friend of mine runs such a company and he has taken on ten in the past five years and of those eight have become full-fledged sound guys in his company.

3. You do the LIPA live audio course, or the Surrey Uni Tonmeister and go into live work with more 'serious' music and theatre.

4. You work your way up the food chain, inside a local, smaller PA company.

In Germany, there are two real qualifications that could lead to live sound. One is stage technician and the other is media production assistant, as well as the original Tonmeister. Both are three-year apprenticeship schemes and usually candidates have either a previous technical qualification or very good A-Levels (well, the German equivalent, Abitur). All these people find jobs and are well paid.


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Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
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Joined: 25/07/03
Posts: 21575
Loc: Worcestershire
Re: Advice on getting into Live Sound Engineering new [Re: The Red Bladder]
      #1031185 - 30/01/13 02:10 PM
Quote The Red Bladder:

Finish that first.




I'd actually argue to finish it at the same time as getting hands-on experience. The latter helps to explain the relevance and importance of the former, while the former underpins your understanding of the latter. In other words, continue your studies while gaining practical experience at weekends/evenings as and where you can.

H

--------------------
Technical Editor, Sound On Sound


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The Red Bladder



Joined: 05/06/07
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Re: Advice on getting into Live Sound Engineering new [Re: Hugh Robjohns]
      #1031189 - 30/01/13 02:23 PM
Quote Hugh Robjohns:

I'd actually argue to finish it at the same time as getting hands-on experience.




Hugh is dead right! But please finish what you have started.


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shufflebeat



Joined: 09/12/07
Posts: 3197
Loc: Manchester, UK
Re: Advice on getting into Live Sound Engineering new [Re: NeilNewbie]
      #1031193 - 30/01/13 02:41 PM
Another thread that might be relevant/enlightening:

thread

--------------------
Dear Mr God,
We called but you were out - B Dylan Deliveries (Intntl)


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Matthias



Joined: 17/09/04
Posts: 25
Loc: London
Re: Advice on getting into Live Sound Engineering new [Re: NeilNewbie]
      #1031225 - 30/01/13 06:39 PM
Hi Neil

What The Red Bladder and Hugh said about shifts in technology and the resulting shift in skills requirements is true. However, this has not necessarily led to the suggested reduction in sound crew numbers, at least not with larger productions. Rather than a reduction it has been a shift. Crew members who would have previously stacked speakers are now preparing speaker arrays for flying. The modern role of a “system tech” has become crucial. Digital consoles are often staffed by an additional “babysitter” next to the mix engineer. Shows with numerous radio sources require an RF technician, etc.

The notion of sound being “all automated” as a driver for crew reduction is rather naïve and unrealistic. Live sound for music, events, corporate, theatre and musicals is a viable sector. Yes, there are some shows where a sound company may only allocate two or three people. On the other hand there are shows where eight or even nine people are provided. In reality, an arena gig has four to five sound crew. This – in combination with the number and frequency of live events – shows that it is much more viable than the recording industry.

It is of course also important to see that there are different segments of the industry and for certain level s Mike’s description is realistic, but there are other levels and there are people who are doing it for a living and who would certainly have shifted to other jobs if it was that bad.

In terms of education options, the forum rules preclude any specific advertising but I would suggest you research industry-based live sound training courses as a systematic and condensed option to enter this field.

Regards,

Matthias Postel

--------------------
Britannia Row Productions Training


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The Red Bladder



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Re: Advice on getting into Live Sound Engineering new [Re: Matthias]
      #1031334 - 31/01/13 10:24 AM
Quote Matthias:

The notion of sound being “all automated” as a driver for crew reduction is rather naïve and unrealistic.




That is not only rude, but wrong. I also notice that, despite being German, you carefully avoid commenting on the career paths of Mediengestalter Bild & Ton and Bühnentechniker. Had you attended one of these apprenticeships, instead of the SAE, you would know that we have indeed been able to save on staff in some types of shows (multi-act festivals and TV shows in particular).

Not in absolutely every case, but many.

Remember, I am about the same age as your bosses and I have been in this game a long time and when you were in short pants, I was mixing talent shows for RTL TV - and struggling if I didn't have a posse of assistants. Nowadays, all that fretting over cue sheets, re-routing and resetting would be done with snap-shots.

We don't need another Wysuckie College for the Totally Dumb, even if it has the time-honoured name of Brit Row attached to it. What we need is the German system - the proper German system of apprenticeships and Tonmeistern and not another version of your former employer.


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Matthias



Joined: 17/09/04
Posts: 25
Loc: London
Re: Advice on getting into Live Sound Engineering new [Re: The Red Bladder]
      #1031409 - 31/01/13 04:22 PM
@TheRedBladder:
I think we are both in danger of overgeneralisation. OK, you have used the specific example of a 90-crew tour with 20 trucks and stated the opinion that due to advances in technology the sound crew would probably be three. Please rest assured that this is not the case. Prior to posting I had conversations with an engineer, a director and operations staff at Britannia Row. Some of these people have experiences of the Live Sound business back to the late 60s and across a wide range of levels. No, crew sizes have not been reduced as a general, technology-driven trend. They do scale of course with technological complexity and a simple setup may not require a system tech for example.
Certainly, these factors differ between applications and sectors of the industry. However, in the non-amateur music sector there is a demand for skilled man-/womanpower in sound. You have my full agreement on the shifted skills requirements.

Let’s go back to Neil’s original question of how to get into it.

The German apprenticeship system is generally well-regarded. There is no approved apprenticeship for “Bühnentechniker”, however I assume you mean “Veranstaltungstechniker” which is a 3-year broad apprenticeship, including stage, lights, video and sound. Similarly, the Mediengestalter Bild/Ton is broad across video, light and sound. Once again, there are jobs and sectors where such a combined, broad skillset might be useful.

In the UK apprenticeships are less regulated but politically favoured right now. There is one framework for “Live Events and Promotion” which includes various business aspects and also some aspects of working as stage and loading crew. There is also one for “Technical Theatre” which as the name suggests is theatre-based and also includes stage, lights and sound.

We know and believe that world class sound deserves focus and specialisation. In the non-amateur music field, as well as other non-amateur applications, functional separation and specialisation is a matter of fact. Having said that, specialisation vs general skills is an interesting debate to be had.

From the industry point of view, there is a need for focused, specialised training as people are required with the appropriate set of skills, and not just some general idea about sound. For the Live Sound sector and operational jobs within it, these do not need to include academic skills. Therefore, vocational practical training is generally speaking an appropriate route.

For Neil’s situation it does not appear as if an apprenticeship would be appropriate, also considering that only those for 16 to 18 year-olds are fully funded and therefore attractive for employers.

I agree that new approaches to vocational training are needed, especially as far as industry-relevance is concerned. Educational institutions, schools, colleges, universities etc. are chasing the industry for knowledge, relevance and opportunities. Industry-based training is a leap forward in relevance and immediacy. What could be more direct than being trained by actual practitioners, with the resources and context of the actual industry ?

@TheRedBladder: I do agree with what you reject, however my case is also that the level of specialisation required for Live Sound does not need to be inflated to a three-year very broad programme which includes many non-technical topics.

Fortunately, there are many choices, ranging from no training at all to a Master’s degree and a whole range in between.

Can I tell Neil what decision he should make about his future path ? Of course not, but it is important to provide a fair picture of what is going on these days. If he pursues his ambition in whichever way, he will still need to prove himself as a good technician and a good crew member in order to succeed.

Regards,

Matthias Postel
P.S.: RTL started in 84 when I was just on the edge of wearing long trousers ;-)

--------------------
Britannia Row Productions Training


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James PerrettModerator



Joined: 10/09/01
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Loc: The wilds of Hampshire
Re: Advice on getting into Live Sound Engineering new [Re: Matthias]
      #1031478 - 31/01/13 10:34 PM
Quote Matthias:

For the Live Sound sector and operational jobs within it, these do not need to include academic skills. Therefore, vocational practical training is generally speaking an appropriate route.





I'm saddened to hear that as I believe that a knowledge of the physics and basic electronics involved is essential for anyone who wants to be anything other than a button pusher. I hope you will reconsider this approach - otherwise I'm afraid that the Red Bladder's fears are well founded.

James.

--------------------
JRP Music - Audio Mastering and Restoration.
http://www.jrpmusic.net


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Mike Stranks
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Joined: 03/01/03
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Re: Advice on getting into Live Sound Engineering new [Re: James Perrett]
      #1031538 - 01/02/13 09:16 AM
Quote James Perrett:

Quote Matthias:

For the Live Sound sector and operational jobs within it, these do not need to include academic skills. Therefore, vocational practical training is generally speaking an appropriate route.





I'm saddened to hear that as I believe that a knowledge of the physics and basic electronics involved is essential for anyone who wants to be anything other than a button pusher. I hope you will reconsider this approach - otherwise I'm afraid that the Red Bladder's fears are well founded.

James.



Absolutely!

When I'm training or mentoring, if I come across someone who has no understanding of (and doesn't want to get) the rudiments of the physics of sound and electronics - or even Ohm's Law - then it's really hard going. I'd also add that some understanding of how music 'works' is enormously beneficial.

Without these or a willingness to acquire them then people really do not progress very far and find it difficult to problem-solve by thinking - they always want a "show me what to do" solution rather than a "how do I deal with those issues?" approach.


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The Red Bladder



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Re: Advice on getting into Live Sound Engineering new [Re: NeilNewbie]
      #1031553 - 01/02/13 10:32 AM
@ Mathias - yes, you are quite right. It is of course Veranstaltungstechniker and shame on me for getting that one wrong, as we even have a Veranstaltunstechikerin in the family!

But what we have here is typical of the slow disintegration of the once good quality and standards of the UK music and event know-how. I find it desperately sad, that Bryan and Mike should go down the path of squeezing money out of hopeful kids, when they were, until now, so proud of Brit Row's internal and very thorough training programme. That they would put a former confident of the notorious Tom Misner makes the whole thing particularly strange. I suppose it is all part of the same development as Abbey Road making more money from souvenirs than from orchestras!

It's easy, isn't it? Just as Abbey Road have discovered that you can make at least ten times as much from holding corporate events than from making music, Brit Row is cashing in on former glory by teaching kids how to become windswept and groovy (and unemployed) 'sound engineers.'

I suppose we all should be doing that - telling young people that they can become the groovy guy sitting in 'flight-control' in front of a thousand buttons, surrounded by admiring girls. All they have to do is pay in advance and attend some easy course that requires no effort, no previous knowledge and no qualifications.

"You can have a career in live audio!" Just take these all-electric zoom-pills and you will become the guy in the photograph that gets to hang out with the good and great!

The reality is that these easy private courses lead absolutely nowhere. Or as one SAE web-page once put it "Gain vital college credits for money paid!"


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Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
SOS Technical Editor


Joined: 25/07/03
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Loc: Worcestershire
Re: Advice on getting into Live Sound Engineering new [Re: Matthias]
      #1031560 - 01/02/13 11:10 AM
Quote Matthias:

From the industry point of view, there is a need for focused, specialised training as people are required with the appropriate set of skills, and not just some general idea about sound. For the Live Sound sector and operational jobs within it, these do not need to include academic skills. Therefore, vocational practical training is generally speaking an appropriate route.




It seems to me that this is an increasingly popular approach. It's currently very popular with the government to provide 'apprentiships'. It's popular with students bceuase they get to do easy things -- no sums or difficult thinking -- and believe they are on a career path. And it's a very easy way to make shed loads of money....

Let me relay a story from my past that highlights the inherent pitfalls, though. Back in the jurassic period when I joined the BBC, the training they provided for radio and TV sound balancers started with 13 weeks of intensive training, 9-5, five days a week, with compulsory evening working at least twice a week. It was a combination of formal academic lectures, and hands-on practicals and involved lots of testing along the way.

People were taught all the physics and acoustics fundamentals, the principles of microphones and loudspeakers, console signal paths, electrical safety, how EQ and compressors work, and so on... they were even taught how to solder and wire patchbays! They were also taught how to listen, how to recognise and analyse faults, how to follow musical scores, how to edit how to mix, how to rig safely, how to put people at their ease and control difficult sessions and difficult people, how to construct different kinds of programme. In short, it provided a comprehensive combination of technical theory, practical application, and production. After 6-9 months or so working as a junior in various departments they would come back for three more weeks to consolidate and extend their technical training. After another 6-9 months they would come back for another five weeks for a final qualifying course.

This was serious training. Expensive, sure, but it had built the BBC's reputation and produced the most highly skilled staff in the broadcasting world -- most of whom have gone on to do the most amazing things.

By the time I left the BBC the bean counters had decided this was all nonsense and we were being forced to train people to a full operational standard in three weeks. They had to be able to work in studios reliably in that time... and as a result we were forced to cut virtually all of the underpinning theory and teach them what buttons to push to achieve a specific result. In other words, basic vocational training. The bean counters were delighted -- people working and useful within just three weeks. Look at the savings they had made...

However, it very quickly all came back to bite them on the bum because these people couldn't cope if the equipment was changed and the buttons ended up in different places, or with different labels. They didn't know enough about the underlying technology and the principals of what they were trying to do to be able to apply that knowledge to a slightly different scenario. As a result standards started to plummet and lots of remedial training had to be set up.

Worse, when these people started to apply for more senior jobs they were found to lack the necessary knowledge and skills. They were failing to answer even the simplest of the standard interview board questions. They didn't have the theoretical knowledge to think beyond their experience; to think their way out of unfamiliar or challenging situations. As a result, the normal career progression paths just weren't open to them anymore, all because of their lack of initial academic training.

The BBC learned the hard way and the damage has been done. But I would urge others to take the lesson on board. There is no substitute for a thorough training that includes comprehensive academic underpinnings if you are seeking a long career in a highly technical and rapidly evolving industry. If you just want to fit tyres or cut hair for a lifetime, go for vocational training.

hugh

--------------------
Technical Editor, Sound On Sound


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seablade



Joined: 21/11/04
Posts: 3989
Re: Advice on getting into Live Sound Engineering new [Re: Hugh Robjohns]
      #1031593 - 01/02/13 01:39 PM
Quote Hugh Robjohns:


People were taught all the physics and acoustics fundamentals, the principles of microphones and loudspeakers, console signal paths, electrical safety, how EQ and compressors work, and so on... they were even taught how to solder and wire patchbays! They were also taught how to listen, how to recognise and analyse faults, how to follow musical scores, how to edit how to mix, how to rig safely, how to put people at their ease and control difficult sessions and difficult people, how to construct different kinds of programme. In short, it provided a comprehensive combination of technical theory, practical application, and production. After 6-9 months or so working as a junior in various departments they would come back for three more weeks to consolidate and extend their technical training. After another 6-9 months they would come back for another five weeks for a final qualifying course.





That is an impressive list. I would be very curious if you have time sometime to get a breakdown of topics taught for my own use in teaching, I was certainly able to check off most of those in my curriculum(Not all, I don't teach reading music for example, but there is thankfully a music program right across the hall that does if they can get into the theory classes), which consists of three US college semesters of courses, 3 days a week for an hour a day, but I always find there isn't enough time to really go into things and I move so fast I wonder how much retention there is in my students. This is at a college with no actual sound program, I only teach in the theater department as one option to the students, compared to the lighting, set design, or stage management programs.

On to the topic at hand.

And like others here I consider understanding WHY sound operates to be key in continuing past a button pusher stage. If you can't understand for instance, why two speakers covering the same area with the same sound isn't necessarily the best option compared to a single speaker properly placed, then how are you going to design a system for a show? How are you going to be capable of determining the best location for speakers on a tour where you are in a different venue weekly, or daily, sometimes even more often depending on the size and popularity of the tour.

Yes sound jobs have shifted, I will agree. There are less jobs for straight 'sound' people, but new jobs open up elsewhere, video for instance being the latest rage. Having a basic grounding in all areas is a good thing for this reason, my full time work right now consists of a mixture of all sorts of stuff and overseeing many different departments, including video, sound, computers and playback, lighting, IT, etc. I have worked other jobs that were configuring and maintaining large RS-422 networks of devices (Electronic Libretto Systems for those familiar with them, with approx 2500 nodes), which also required I be able to follow an operatic score to operate the show if needed, and of course maintain an audio monitoring system for the operators. One of the biggest improvements I did there was exceedingly simple, taking a split stereo mic system that was being mixed down to mono, and make it actually stereo in reproduction, which improved the clarity of audio for the operators, who had been complaining about phasing without knowing how to describe it. But I wouldn't have known what the heck was going on without a basic understanding of the physics of sound waves.

Most of my jobs I am doing electronic repairs, built a small control surface for a rackmount mixer for the above ELS job. Repairing microphones, resoldering cables, keyboard repair, etc. are all part of my work. I have never been formally trained in it, I really wish I had been, but this is standard work. Hell I worked loading in a system for a tour one time as a stage hand, where as the stagehand I had to help repair an array speaker that was acting up before the rehearsal of the show began.

All the basics add up, the more you know about why and how sound works, the more you will be able to be flexible and adapt to new situations as they arrive, and not just become a button pusher that is completely out of their element when their console dies at the last minute and they have to redesign a show for a completely different console because you can't get an identical replacement.

Seablade


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Matthias



Joined: 17/09/04
Posts: 25
Loc: London
Re: Advice on getting into Live Sound Engineering new [Re: Mike Stranks]
      #1032022 - 04/02/13 12:58 PM
Hi James & Mike,

Sorry, this was a misunderstanding. Of course: An understanding of basic physics and electronics (especially mains power) are essential. What I meant by academic skills are matters covered by degrees, e.g. academic writing, resarch methodologies, critical analysis, reflective essays, literary skills, cultural issues, pitching/presentation, to name but a few and to give a sense of what my point was.

Regards,

Matthias Postel

--------------------
Britannia Row Productions Training


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seablade



Joined: 21/11/04
Posts: 3989
Re: Advice on getting into Live Sound Engineering new [Re: Matthias]
      #1032028 - 04/02/13 01:14 PM
Quote Matthias:

Hi James & Mike,

Sorry, this was a misunderstanding. Of course: An understanding of basic physics and electronics (especially mains power) are essential. What I meant by academic skills are matters covered by degrees, e.g. academic writing, resarch methodologies, critical analysis, reflective essays, literary skills, cultural issues, pitching/presentation, to name but a few and to give a sense of what my point was.

Regards,

Matthias Postel




Again, this can vary. Go into business for yourself, which isn't uncommon either in live sound, and suddenly this things become much more useful. For instance when writing up system proposals, etc. for clients in my consulting. That being said I despised taking English in uni, but it isn't completely useless. Similar situations for math(I STILL wish I had learned calculus to understand DSP a bit more and possibly create my own) and many other topics (Do a sound design for a history oriented show and see how useless history knowledge is).

Seablade


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Matthias



Joined: 17/09/04
Posts: 25
Loc: London
Re: Advice on getting into Live Sound Engineering new [Re: NeilNewbie]
      #1032137 - 04/02/13 11:46 PM
In response to Hugh and seablade: of course in principle, the more training the better. In reality however, a number of forces oppose the ideal:

  1. As experienced by the BBC, training incurs costs and needs to be funded. In the absence of subsidies it has a price-tag, which leads to pragmatic, condensed training.
  2. The Live Sound industry is notoriously agnostic about qualifications. It is a matter of fact that sound rental companies typically take on people with or without qualifications and train them over a prolonged period specifically for live work
  3. I talk to many individuals who have already acquired various levels of theoretical and practical audio knowledge. For graduates from generic audio programmes, it becomes a matter of specialisation to be able to work in Live Sound as a studio-based education does not sufficiently prepare for live work. However, theory and basics that are covered by such programmes do not need to be repeated in training specific for live sound.
  4. There are misconceptions about job levels, in particular the use of “engineer” and “engineering” is often misleading. In the Live Sound industry an “engineer” is certainly not an occupation that would be achievable with a bit of training and a handful of gigs’ worth of experience, even if it had the extent of the old BBC scheme. One starts as a technician and embarks on a long experience-gathering journey to possibly, eventually be referred to as an “engineer”. The values of the Live Sound industry still favour the concept of “learning by doing” and “from the ground up”.
  5. Some people want to focus one one particular thing and may not want to go broader or consider setting up their own business as mentioned by seablade.


These factors lead to training that is pragmatic and incorporates theory to an extent that makes sense. Yet, this approach is still more effective and more efficient than a lack of any training or instruction at all, for example the advice often found on forums to just buy some equipment and learn from youtube.

We are arguing here about “the best way”. In a complex matter and an unregulated field (not much need to argue about “the best way” to become a surgeon ...), there are inevitably various ways to succeed. One way to approach this is empirically: Do we have examples of people who went on to work in live sound with the biggest names after initially starting with pragmatic, tailored training ? Absolutely. Are there examples of people in the industry who achieved the same success as University graduates or even postgraduates ? Certainly. Finally, are there people who never attended any training at all, but got in through talent and (for example) working with a band that became successful ? These also exist.

The question is how does someone get from from where they are (A) to the position of earning a living with live sound (B) ? Generally, you can get from A to B by getting on a train, seeing a lot of landscape along the way and really taking in the whole journey. You can also take a 4-wheel drive and go off-road in a bumpy way, with a few detours and dead-ends. I think for some people it is right to go the fast, un-padded way by motorbike on the motorway. As I said above and in a previous post, there are different routes for different people and their individual situations.

Regards,

Matthias Postel

--------------------
Britannia Row Productions Training


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seablade



Joined: 21/11/04
Posts: 3989
Re: Advice on getting into Live Sound Engineering new [Re: Matthias]
      #1032159 - 05/02/13 03:04 AM
Quote Matthias:

In response to Hugh and seablade: of course in principle, the more training the better. In reality however, a number of forces oppose the ideal:

  1. As experienced by the BBC, training incurs costs and needs to be funded. In the absence of subsidies it has a price-tag, which leads to pragmatic, condensed training.
  2. The Live Sound industry is notoriously agnostic about qualifications. It is a matter of fact that sound rental companies typically take on people with or without qualifications and train them over a prolonged period specifically for live work
  3. I talk to many individuals who have already acquired various levels of theoretical and practical audio knowledge. For graduates from generic audio programmes, it becomes a matter of specialisation to be able to work in Live Sound as a studio-based education does not sufficiently prepare for live work. However, theory and basics that are covered by such programmes do not need to be repeated in training specific for live sound.
  4. There are misconceptions about job levels, in particular the use of “engineer” and “engineering” is often misleading. In the Live Sound industry an “engineer” is certainly not an occupation that would be achievable with a bit of training and a handful of gigs’ worth of experience, even if it had the extent of the old BBC scheme. One starts as a technician and embarks on a long experience-gathering journey to possibly, eventually be referred to as an “engineer”. The values of the Live Sound industry still favour the concept of “learning by doing” and “from the ground up”.
  5. Some people want to focus one one particular thing and may not want to go broader or consider setting up their own business as mentioned by seablade.


These factors lead to training that is pragmatic and incorporates theory to an extent that makes sense. Yet, this approach is still more effective and more efficient than a lack of any training or instruction at all, for example the advice often found on forums to just buy some equipment and learn from youtube.

We are arguing here about “the best way”. In a complex matter and an unregulated field (not much need to argue about “the best way” to become a surgeon ...), there are inevitably various ways to succeed. One way to approach this is empirically: Do we have examples of people who went on to work in live sound with the biggest names after initially starting with pragmatic, tailored training ? Absolutely. Are there examples of people in the industry who achieved the same success as University graduates or even postgraduates ? Certainly. Finally, are there people who never attended any training at all, but got in through talent and (for example) working with a band that became successful ? These also exist.

The question is how does someone get from from where they are (A) to the position of earning a living with live sound (B) ? Generally, you can get from A to B by getting on a train, seeing a lot of landscape along the way and really taking in the whole journey. You can also take a 4-wheel drive and go off-road in a bumpy way, with a few detours and dead-ends. I think for some people it is right to go the fast, un-padded way by motorbike on the motorway. As I said above and in a previous post, there are different routes for different people and their individual situations.

Regards,

Matthias Postel




The difference here is likely in what level you want to reach. If you want to do more than push boxes and coil cable, the experience requirements are quite a bit different. But that is the thing, it is WHILE you are pushing boxes and coiling cables for these companies you are learning the other skills. I can't think of one higher end mixer I know of that doesn't know the majority of quite a few of those skills I mentioned, whether they went through any 'official' schooling or not, because they learned it on the job.

You can always go push boxes, coil cable, and so long as you put forth the effort, you can likely succeed in the live sound industry, but expect long weeks with very little pay for several years. Expect to be spending you extra time learning every trick of the trade you can. And for this route to be true, you don't need any schooling at all, it certainly is viable and I know quite a few people that have done it.

What I tell people is that you go to a school, any school, for a place to screw up. Professionally if I screw up, it follows me for years at a minimum, if not the rest of my professional life. Personally I still have experiences that haunt me, for lack of a better word, that I think back on and shudder because I know that either I screwed up or that it wasn't representative of me for whatever reason. One occasion for instance involved managing a satellite downlink for an event, I was brought in to a venue, the day of, that was completely unprepared and didn't have the proper equipment or setup. It is an occasion I can say the failure had very little to do with me, but it will still reflect on me(Other occasions not so much;) I know I will never work with that company again, have never been called back by them, because of that one screwup.

However if such an occasion happened in my college career, it didn't survive past college. Nothing I did in school affects my professional career really, other than the fact I am now teaching instead of studying. It was a place I could screw up and noone would care, and if experience is the best teacher you should make sure you are in fact getting useful experience, not just hand holding, in school.

Could I just as easily have worked my way up through a live sound company? Absolutely. But does that mean those other skills I gained in college are useless? Absolutely not.

You seem to be arguing that for one specific path of many, you don't need those skills. For that one path that is very limited and ends with being a mixer at best, not really a system designer, RF coordinator, etc. you may not need those skills. But for more advanced jobs, if you are successful, you likely picked up those skills, in particular how to communicate with others, either on the job or elsewhere. I know far more people successful in live sound, not just working it, that have learned those skills one way or another, the question is how long it took them.

On the topic of qualifications...

The live sound industry is not agnostic about qualifications. If I see someone that has years of experience, vs someone that doesn't, guess which one I am going to lean towards.

If I am looking for someone to push boxes, I am not looking for years of experience period, I am looking for someone that can learn and work. But then that person is not truly 'succeeding' in live sound as much as they are 'succeeding' at being a stage hand(And I do, quite literally, have my stagehand card as well... however I rarely use it these days). So when looking for a stagehand, I am not looking for live sound qualifications no, just like when looking for a light technician, I won't care how good of an actor you are. But if I am looking for someone to mix a show, I look for qualifications in mixing to determine if they are worth talking to. If I am looking for someone to take a tour out, I look for someone that has experience on the road, and also has experience in more than just how to push a fader, but how to rig, how to tune a system, and... how to communicate.

One thing to remember, at least two thirds of a mixer's job (And a sound engineer's) is communication. And by that I mean talking to people. What I tell my students if, if I can tell you to shut the <censored> up, and have you walk away smiling, I have done my job. As a mixer, depending on the level you are at, you will have to talk to the acts on stage, the audience, the bartenders, the venue engineer/tech, your own crew, etc. This doesn't go into knowing why a distributed down firing 70v system sound awful compare to two speakers on a stick in the bar you are playing at. It doesn't go into why you would choose to load in your system one night, even though the venue has a system which looks better on paper. It doesn't go into deciding when you need to argue, and how to argue, with a venue because the tech ryder wasn't respected, and it is downright dangerous to play there, but not means going without a paycheck(At least for a while). There is far more than just how to EQ a system, how to push a fader, how to crank up the bass that goes into being a truly successful engineer. And you are going to learn it one way or another to be successful.

On a more direct note: I know of more than a few technical schools that push students out as fast as they can, that the people I know responsible for hiring, myself included, will turn over that resume as fast as we read those school's names(And these are not small schools), unless we see years of experience first. On the other hand there are many other much more general schools that will get more than a second glance when I see their name on a resume, and I am more likely to call those people in for an interview.

Seablade

PS. While I certainly never graduated college with an engineering degree, I would say there is a very strong argument that I have earned the title of engineer through my experience and knowledge, and I do advertise myself as such. But the catch is someone will always disagree as there is no set definition of 'audio engineer', to some people only those with a degree in engineering qualify.

/rant


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Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
SOS Technical Editor


Joined: 25/07/03
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Re: Advice on getting into Live Sound Engineering new [Re: Matthias]
      #1032183 - 05/02/13 10:01 AM
Quote Matthias:

  1. As experienced by the BBC, training incurs costs and needs to be funded. In the absence of subsidies it has a price-tag, which leads to pragmatic, condensed training.




Clearly this is very true. However, the pay-back from in in-depth foundation training is over decades -- it affects the entire working career of the trainee and has equally long term benefits for the organisation and, because people change jobs, for the entire industry.

Accountants generally only work to a one-year time scale. They want to see real bottom line savings for the year-end P&L accounts. That's how they judge their own success, and, idiotically, how so many senior managers judge their success, too. Cutting on training provides immediate savings and usually has little obvious affect on the business becuase the properly trained staff can carry the workload. But as time goes on, the effects become more and more apparent, until the brown stuff hits the fan. of course, most accountants endeavour to move on to higher paid jobs elsewhere before the chickens come home to roost from their original short-termist decisions.

Quote:

  • The Live Sound industry is notoriously agnostic about qualifications. It is a matter of fact that sound rental companies typically take on people with or without qualifications and train them over a prolonged period specifically for live work




  • In which case, why offer any fee-paying training courses at all? If it is of no relevance to the industry, it can only be for profit!

    Quote:

    ...theory and basics that are covered by such programmes do not need to be repeated in training specific for live sound.




    yes, that's true... but it only works if you are providing specialist/conversion training for previously qualified people. That implies the need for such courses to have high and relevant academic entrance requirements... which isn't the case!

    Quote:

    In the Live Sound industry an “engineer” is certainly not an occupation that would be achievable with a bit of training and a handful of gigs’ worth of experience, even if it had the extent of the old BBC scheme.




    This is true of all industries, surely, and is certainly true in broadcasting. The person working at the top of the pyramid -- the 'engineer' sat at the big desk -- only gets there after years of gained experience. But to gain that experience you still need to understand the theoretical concepts and to continually strive to learn more and more about the technology and underlying physics involved. Those at the top are, without exception in my experience, very knowledgable people, with that knowledge coming from the very beginning of their career with continual updates and focused learning (continual professional development).

    Quote:

  • Some people want to focus one one particular thing and may not want to go broader or consider setting up their own business as mentioned by seablade.




  • True -- although in the modern age, such restrictions could prove foolhardy. I am a strong advocate of maintaining a range of skills and a broad awareness of other related jobs to ensure transferability should the need (or later interest) arise. Few people do the same narrowly focused job for the 30+ years of their working lives these days.

    Quote:

    ...for example the advice often found on forums to just buy some equipment and learn from youtube.




    But not something that you'll find very opften on this forum, and that's not what the magazine advocates either!

    Quote:

    We are arguing here about “the best way”.




    Discussing, surely?

    Quote:

    As I said above and in a previous post, there are different routes for different people and their individual situations.




    Absolutely -- I quite agree. At the end of the day it is the responsibility of the indivudal to choose the path that best suits their own ways of learning, their own aspirations, and their own resources. But it is equally important to help those people understand in a balanced way the implications of a chosen path -- and every route has plus and minus aspects to it -- and to help them see through the rose-tinted scenes painted so often by the marketing people.

    hugh

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    The Red Bladder



    Joined: 05/06/07
    Posts: 2423
    Loc: . ...
    Re: Advice on getting into Live Sound Engineering new [Re: NeilNewbie]
          #1032228 - 05/02/13 02:45 PM
    Let's go through some important points here, that have been raised and some that I feel aught to be raised -

    1. In Mathias' home country, to call yourself an engineer (or claim any other academic title) when you do not have a degree level qualification accredited by the recognised authority, is a criminal offence. Altogether, Germany has a recognised career pathway to recording, media production, live sound and concert work that has served it extremely well. It is also the reason (well, one of the reasons) that when you go to see, say, The Rolling Stones or Queen, even in the UK, it will be recorded for DVD by a German company. And that latest box-set of James Bond films will have been authored in Germany. We employ people from the Wysuckie College for the Totally Dumb at our peril!

    2. There is some idiotic belief that you can get employment as a sound 'engineer' without having a formal knowledge of the theory behind the noise. There is a real image being created by various schools, that you can sit behind a mixing desk and earn a real living wage, without being able to read music, read a circuit diagram, solder, trouble-shoot, or have any meaningful IT skills. Trust me, the guys at the top do know these things and the guys at the bottom need to know these things most!

    3. Most employment in this field today is with AV companies. I was talking to the boss of one medium-sized AV company in the UK (c.a. 100 staff) and he told me in no uncertain terms, that there is no such thing in his company as audio-only. If he sends a man out to do an installation, that man (or woman) has to do everything. I told him about the German qualification of Mediengestalter and he said "God! I wish we had that here!" There is a burning need for people with formal training in all aspects of events and media creation.

    4. The colleges educate only for all those recording studio that never existed and most to a level that is laughable. We had one such college class visit us and the students asked who did our wiring, who services and fixes stuff when it breaks, who built the DAWs and installed the software? I told them that they are looking at that person. They were also shocked, when I showed them an EDL. It was written on a score! Sitting behind the mixing desk is the smallest part of the gig!

    5. Which brings me nicely to the silly idea that employers are somehow 'agnostic' about the qualifications of media staff. They are agnostic, because they have to be. Brit Row may be agnostic about formal qualifications, but it is not agnostic about the quality of staff and has a very demanding in-house training programme. It has to have such a programme, because formal qualifications of sufficient quality are just not there. In Germany, that type of approach vanished pretty quickly when proper three-year apprenticeships were introduced.


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