Industry Education: Meeting The Needs Of Jewelers

Training programs help jewelers to compete more effectively by keeping up with advances in the industry

These are good times in jewelry and watch education. Advances in gemology and technology have created a host of new courses for schools to teach. And a growing professionalism in the industry has created a body of students willing and eager to learn from these courses.

A JCK survey of U.S. and foreign schools and organizations that provide jewelry and watch instruction found that almost half (47%) have seen enrollment increases in some or all of their courses in the past two years. Only 8% saw declines. Half expect enrollment to continue growing through 1998; none expects a decline.

Within specific categories, enrollment grew for 60% of those offering jewelry courses, 43% of those with metalsmithing courses and 36% of those with watch and clock courses.

Demand: What’s spurring the growth? There are three major causes:

  • Increasingly sophisticated customers expect more professionalism from jewelers. Advances in technology and gemology (including the use of unusual gems and the increasing prevalence of treatments and synthetics) require jewelers to deepen their skills. “There is a heightened awareness that on-going education is necessary to keep up with advances in the field,” says Vivianne Del Signore of the Gemo-logical Institute of America. (GIA expects a 15% enrollment gain in the next two years.)

  • Jewelers see well-trained salespeople as a weapon in their fight with competitors. “Jewelers are becoming more interested in training their staffs to become better salespeople, not better clerks, and in hiring not clerks, but real salespeople,” says sales and management trainer Shane Decker. Gina DeHaan, director of the Jewelers of America Center for Business Studies, notes a growing emphasis on professional credentials in the business community, including jewelers. “They view trade education as a valuable competitive tool,” she says.

  • Today’s economic realities and the demands of the marketplace are having an impact. Careers in the jewelry and watch trades are increasingly attractive to people who want transferrable job skills or careers in which they can be their own bosses. GIA surveys show a growing number of people choose the gemology and jewelry trades as part of a career change, says Del Signore. Jewelry and watch schools say they also have seen a growing interest among victims of corporate downsizing in other fields. The Joseph Bulova School and the Louisiana Technological School, for example, are among those helping to retrain people dislocated in downsizing.

The students: Executives of education programs say students have changed in the past few years.

A few educators lament that newcomers have lower entry-level skills than in previous years. But many others say today’s jewelry and watch students are more mature, more serious and more motivated.

The educators also say students are more job-oriented. They’re concerned about learning or expanding skills that make them more marketable, more important to their bosses and more competitive in the marketplace. Those now in the jewelry and metalsmithing courses at Yavapai College in Prescott, Ariz., for example, “are more vocationally oriented and less into it as a hobby,” says a spokesman.

Others see their jewelry or watch repair training as a springboard into a job or as a way to become their own boss. “They want to learn entrepreneurship,” says a spokesperson for Bishop State Community College in Mobile, Ala., “They want to learn what it takes to run a small trade shop or jewelry store.”

Educators also note an increase in women and foreign students.

The courses: In response to the growing demand, educators have tried to increase the number and quality of programs they offer.

One in three schools and organizations surveyed has added new courses or expanded existing ones in the past year. And some have done major overhauls of their curriculum to account for technological advances and to offer more specialized training.

One of the biggest changes in jewelry training is the use of the computer. Many schools have added training in computer-aided-design/ computer-aided-manufacture because of the growing use of the computer and the spread of computer literacy among students.

The directory that follows presents dozens of U.S. and foreign schools and organizations that provide training in jewelry and watch skills. Each listing has basic information about the courses offered, their length and the cost to help you decide which ones best meet your needs.

All data about specific programs were provided by the schools or organizations and were current at the time of publication. However, some schools didn’t provide information in time for publication. In these cases, readers should contact the schools or organizations at the addresses listed.

In the past two years, did your enrollment increase in these categories?

Note: Totals more than 100% because some schools and organizations offer courses in two or more categories.
Source: 1996 JCK Directory of Schools survey
% of those offering these courses who answered yes
Jewelry courses 60%
Metalsmithing courses 43%
Watch courses 36%

How have your overall enrollments changed in the past two years?

Source: 1996 JCK Directory of Schools survey
% of respondents
Increased 47%
No change 30.00%
Declined 6.00%
No answer 17.00%

How do you expect your enrollment to change in the next two years?

Source: 1996 JCK Directory of Schools survey
% of respondents
Increase 49%
Decrease 0%
No change 34%
No answer 17%