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University-itis: Why it is so hard to train university graduates.

Smart people tend to come to CG Masters for visual effects training. Often these smart people will already have a credential from another institution, usually an accredited university. Sometimes they have completed a visual effects training program at a university. You’d expect this to be a very good thing. After all, they have shown resilience, commitment, and perseverance.

Here’s the funny part; Smart people, like anyone else, will take the path of least resistance. They will do the least amount of work necessary to achieve the desired goals. Why wouldn’t they? Smart people have looked at the university process and realized that it is phenomenally easy to game the system to ensure they get the grades needed for the desired credential. It still takes time and commitment. After all, you have to go to all those classes for your attendance score (although there are ways around that). You have to write (or find) all those essays. You have to memorize enough information to pass exams (although there are ways around that).

But what they have discovered is that, while they may have to read a bunch and write a bunch and memorize a bunch or find alternative solutions, what they don’t really have to do is learn a bunch. Anyone who has been through any contemporary formal education knows that the second you get out of your final exam, you can dump everything you memorized for the course. Who cares? You’ve passed and that was the goal: to pass, to get the credential, not to learn. It is because a credential has become a social expectation for most people rather than the hallmark of training or knowledge that it used to be.

Now here’s the problem.
University grads have spent most of their lives in academia, learning to beat the process with their cleverness, so when they come to CG Masters, they want to spend their time writing notes for later study instead of paying attention, studying and memorizing instead of practicing, finding shortcuts instead of deliberately working even harder to acquire their skills. Sometimes a university graduate comes to CG Masters still thinking they can get their visual effects training by gaming the system, memorizing just enough to get by, getting attendance scores, getting their credential and getting into the industry. If this is you, and you’re thinking about coming to CGM for professional visual effects training, you might want to think again. If all you are after is a nice, official-looking paper, and if your goal is to get it with the least possible effort, please, don’t come to us.

You see, CG Masters isn’t a school. It’s a training centre for motivated people. There are no written exams for which to memorize names and dates. There are no essays that can be copied, paraphrased or bought. A trainee at CG Masters needs to learn how to let go of academic process and just go after their skills aggressively. If they are selfish about learning skills, and learning them well, they’ll be successful. You see, when a trainee is hell bent on acquiring skills, nobody needs to tell them how long to stay in the lab, how hard to work, whether or not it’s OK to be absent or late for team meetings or when to have their tasks done. Instead of trying to slip past the system with as little effort as possible, a trainee focused on skills will deliberately bypass the easy road and take the hard one because they know it will make them a better, stronger and more capable artist or TD.

At CGM, we are industry professionals and we expect much from our trainees including good, solid work that demonstrates genuine skill, knowledge and understanding to a philosophical level. Our trainees demonstrate to their trainers that they can actually do the work they are assigned in the time they are given to do it. Once they have demonstrated these things, we will endorse them and start introducing them to employers around town.

Employers in film, games, tv, vfx couldn’t really give a crap how many credentials you wave around if you don’t actually have the skills to do the work. It doesn’t matter how “hungry” you are to learn or what a great attitude you have or how passionate you are or what an awesome team player you are. Well…those things help. But in the first place, you need production-quality skills. Most accredited universities just don’t roll that way.

It must be said, in closing, that Universities are amazing institutions with copious very positive qualities and this rant is not intended to imply that universities are not useful. They are not only useful but crucial elements of our society. Their education systems, for the most part, are not optimally organized for job skills.