Melbourne Polytechnic's Bachelor of Writing and Publishing is unique in Australia as it is the only undergraduate degree which offers three years of specialised study in two strands: Writing and Publishing – including twelve core publishing subjects on editing, prepress, typography, web and digital publishing, magazine production, book design, print production, and management. Students participate in all aspects of book and magazine publishing including commissioning, structural and close editing, writing cover blurbs, liaising with authors, writing design briefs, costing and managing projects, and planning and working to deadlines. Students learn grammar, editing, production, design and project management skills.
A major course component in the degree's final year is the development of a series of publishing projects coordinated through our live work publishing studio Yarra Bend Press. Yarra Bend Press encompasses two third year subjects within the Bachelor of Writing and Publishing. Students work as individuals or in groups on several work integrated learning projects drawing on the skills and knowledge acquired in their first two years of the degree. Students may wish to participate in the production of prescribed work related projects that call on a range of skills or in a project that focuses on developing and refining skills in a particular area. By coordinating opportunities for students to be involved in commercial quality publications aimed at enhancing their future academic and employment possibilities, Yarra Bend Press are helping to address the issue of diminishing work experience opportunities within the publishing sector.
Yarra Bend Press engages students in authentic projects with commercially defined outcomes while facilitating industry and peer-to-peer consultation incorporating vocational placements, workshops, functions and seminars. Yarra Bend Press provides students with an in-depth understanding of the workings of a publishing house through the delivery of real production based experiences. Projects can include working on linkage programs with industry partners; work placements; editing a major work or project managing a book, magazine, or digital publication including eBooks and blogs.
A recent report undertaken by the Australian Government's Fair Work Ombudsman acknowledged the importance and legitimacy of unpaid work within formal vocational placements. The report identifies internships as a growth area both in Australia and internationally. Views represented in the report express a belief that internships are mutually beneficial arrangements that should not be discouraged or suppressed. The term ‘internship’ has a broad meaning, covering a wide spectrum of work experience arrangements. It may include everything from simple ‘work shadowing’ opportunities, through to ‘work integrated learning’ that sometimes (but not always) forms part of a formal vocational placement, through to the other extreme, to unpaid or paid entry level jobs. Unpaid internships are particularly popular in industries that are considered attractive to job-seekers or where there is an oversupply of qualified graduates.
While unpaid internships are more prevalent in certain industries, the Ombudsman's report concludes that the majority of professional industries affected include (but are not limited to) print and digital media, advertising, marketing, and publishing. Such arrangements are often considered a prelude to paid work. The report concludes that there is reason to suspect that a growing number of businesses are choosing to engage unpaid interns to perform work that might otherwise be done by paid employees. However, the report notes educational institutions, such as Melbourne Polytechnic, are actively engaged in seeking opportunities for students to gain valuable real world experience in safe, manageable environments to avoid any potential exploitation and to ensure fair access by all to the labour market.
One of the major obstacles facing today’s publishing student is the reduced opportunity for viable industry placed work experience. As publishing houses continue to encounter downsizing, mergers, and acquisitions, companies that were once the first destination for students seeking work experience are now unable to offer this service to a mutually satisfactory level. This is especially true in countries outside the international publishing house’s headquarters, such as circumstances observed in locations like Australia.
Numerous trade skills within the Australian publishing industry including editing, design, typography, marketing, and distribution are routinely sub-contracted. The practice of outsourcing severely reduces the opportunities for students to actively engage in on-site work integrated learning practices that would otherwise contribute to their overall pedagogical experience. While many publishers are keen to share their knowledge and experience, the present business environment severely hampers this dissemination. What the industry requires is a manageable system that ensures students receive the work based education they deserve.
While unpaid internships are more prevalent in certain industries, the Ombudsman's report concludes that the majority of professional industries affected include (but are not limited to) print and digital media, advertising, marketing, and publishing. Such arrangements are often considered a prelude to paid work. The report concludes that there is reason to suspect that a growing number of businesses are choosing to engage unpaid interns to perform work that might otherwise be done by paid employees. However, the report notes educational institutions are actively engaged in seeking opportunities for students to gain valuable work experience in safe, manageable environments to avoid any potential exploitation and to ensure fair access by all to the labour market.
The aim of the Reverse Internship Program is to generate interaction between students and professionals in an engaging manner while also encouraging business networks which may develop into further commercial possibilities. This would particularly benefit a small to medium size publisher, who works from home or a confined office, that may otherwise be reluctant to take on an intern. These professionals will be presented with an opportunity to engage with other like-minded individuals in an environment outside their normal workspace. For Melbourne Polytechnic and its students it offers a valuable interaction with organisations directly involved in the publishing industry, such as the Small Press Network.
The Small Press Network (SPN) is a representative body for small and independent Australian publishers. It was formed in 2006 as the Small Press Underground Networking Community (SPUNC) to promote independent publishing and support the principle of diversity within the publishing industry as a vital component of Australian literary culture. SPN is a not-for-profit incorporation based in Melbourne; its activities are overseen by a board of directors. SPN is committed to working to ensure the continued viability of the independent publishing sector in Australia by facilitating collaborative initiatives, networking opportunities, and general communication between small and independent publishers.
As a member of the Small Press Network, Melbourne Polytechnic's Yarra Bend Press would invite fellow participants from within the organisation who have an applicable project to relocate their office to our campus for an agreed period of time. Melbourne Polytechnic would set the publisher up in a secure environment with access to computer hardware and software, broadband Internet, and 'support staff' made up from our student cohort. We would canvas the publisher with regard to what input they require (e.g. editorial, layout, administration, prepress, marketing, distribution, etc.) and we would offer a group of suitable students from which the publisher could 'interview' and allocate mutually beneficial roles within the Reverse Internship Program. These industry participants will also be encouraged to hold demonstrations and workshops related to their relevant experience and present guest lectures on their projects.
Participation in the Reverse Internship Program will allow students the ability to engage in work place training without the usual impediments of missing classes due to timetable clashes, downtime or financial expenses due to travel, etc. In return, industry professionals allow students the opportunity to partake in real world projects and, along the way, offer the students tangible involvement in the publication's development. Students will receive subject credit for work undertaken, a letter of commendation from their 'employer', and possibly a publication with their name in the credits.
Conceive > Create > Commercialise … Some of the mutually beneficial outcomes for both the publisher and student when working within the collaborative environment. Participation in the Reverse Internship Program allows for a safe, productive work space in a business-like framework that is as rewarding as it is practical. This program helps ensure students will develop a valuable network of contacts and proper industry guided experiences – and along the way avoid those internship horror stories where the student spent most of their time sweeping floors, making coffees or collecting the boss's dry cleaning…
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Last Modified: 7th March 2019