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Calculating teaching kit costs


#1

Hi All,

For all of you who teach workshops, changes in pricing for metal,
supplies, availability of supplies and shipping to the teaching site
is getting more and more difficult. I’m trying to work out a way to
make this an easier process.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Thanks,
Karen Christians


#2

Hey Karen,

The process for pricing a teaching kit is the same as for pricing a
finished piece of jewelry. Estimate the actual materials needed per
kit and add the costs of shipping and time processing those
materials.

There is someone on this forum who has a pricing guide for jewelry
repair (Geller?), anyway you can use those same formulas just modify
them for the needs of the class material kit.

Hope this helps,
Nanz Aalund
www.nanzaalund.com


#3

Hi Karen,

I’ve just got an excel sheet that I plunk the current cost numbers
into, and it gives me the “hard” costs. I proceed from there,
updating the cost numbers as it becomes an issue.

FWIW, Brian.


#4
I've just got an excel sheet that I plunk the current cost numbers
into, and it gives me the "hard" costs. I proceed from there,
updating the cost numbers as it becomes an issue. 

That is what I do, the big problem is that many of the workshops I
teach want your costs 6 months to a year in advance so that their
marketing can be done in a timely fashion to fill the classes they
offer. Trying to predict the cost of precious metals in advance in
these times is difficult to say the least. It may be time to start
talking to the schools about quoting the materials kit costs at a a
give price per oz for metals involved with any variations to be
collected or refunded at the time of the class. Otherwise you must
try to predict those costs and put enough of a fudge factor in your
kit costs to cover what might happen.

Or you provide very specific materials lists for the student to bring
and let the student be responsible for purchase of precious metals.
The problem I have had in the past with this is too many people don’t
seem to be able to read and follow directions so you inevitably end
up with students that don’t have the right materials and then you and
or the school end up scrambling to provide the needed materials.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#5

Hello James and all!

For many years with my students in two of my community colleges, I
ran into a multitude of buying problems. So what did I do, I gave out
a rudimentary list of tools everyone must use. These tools were to be
the exact same as the other students, no similar, or near the same
kind.

I gave out these lists to all and I went on my way and bought all
the identical and required tools for everyone. As all of my students
were working 40 hrs week at other jobs, I had the available time and
named each student as a client. In the process, everyone had the same
setting tool…“on time”!

As for the silver demo-rings, I again made darn sure all of the
castings were ready on time. I hate to have to wait till the next
week for some miss-casted items. My casting silver and fees were paid
through each of the two colleges, but everyone was happy…and no
delays anywhere.

These days no one knows the prices ahead of time. No one can judge
what silver or tools will be 6 months from now. As each school must
cover their overhead, I had to rely upon past buying costs and figure
out the next semester fees. Silver was bought at time of need,
“quantity” saved on singular purchases. Buying CZ’s, costs again were
judged upon past buying history and volume…again, everyone saved
money.

I requested and received 10+% discounts everywhere. If not, I moved
on to another supplier. “Bate and Switch” tool suppliers were
immdiately taken off of my buying list. I knew exactly what was
needed, therefore it was easier for everyone if I bought tools for
them all…:slight_smile:

I have been doing this buying routine for the past 11 years. I’m
happy, the schools are happy and the students appreciate my extra
labours…Gerry!


#6

“Just In Time” inventory control isn’t necessarily the right answer
for every situation.

You’re trying to manage the risk that the price of the metal and
supplies won’t go up by more than you’re betting on, and that what
you need will be available when you need it.

If you’re teaching the same workshop on an ongoing basis, and you’ll
need these same supplies again and again, and you have a rough idea
of the maximum number of students you’ll have in each class, you may
have the option to trade cashflow for risk.

Assuming you have the cashflow to support it, you can buy the metal
and supplies now for the class that you’re scheduling/advertising for
3-12 months from now, and you’ve guaranteed not only that you know
how much to charge for that class’s kit, but that you have the bits
and pieces in your hot little hands before you need them. Then you
can also arrange to ship them to a remote location well in advance,
which can let you take advantage of slower shipping methods
(overnight delivery is pricey!).

In most cases, the cost of these things isn’t going down, so it’s not
likely that you’re going to lose money in this case… and if the
cost does happen to go down, you can buy extra at the lower price at
the last minute, use the less expensive stuff, and make a few extra
dollars. (And still have materials on hand, that you know the cost
of, for the next class, which we’ve already established that you
will be teaching.)


#7
In most cases, the cost of these things isn't going down, so it's
not likely that you're going to lose money in this case... and if
the cost does happen to go down, you can buy extra at the lower
price at the last minute, use the less expensive stuff, and make a
few extra dollars. (And still have materials on hand, that you know
the cost of, for the *next* class, which we've already established
that you will be teaching.) 

The market is volatile and it goes up and down. It is unreasonable to
expect the instructor to buy materials and tie up their cash for 6
months to a year in advance for an unknown class size. I am not a
bank or metals supply house so I should not have to act like one.
While this might be ok with a simple project in a class where
significant amounts of precious metals are needed it is just not
smart. If one teaches the same class on a ongoing basis than it is a
slightly different issue but still it is unreasonable for the school
or the students to expect the instructor to have enough clairvoyance
to guess what the metals market will be in advance of the class. So
either the school needs to pay for the metals in advance to set the
price at the current market or the materials fee needs to be quoted
at a specific market price with the students informed that there
will be a difference in fee depending on the market prices.

Jim

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#8

Yes, the market is volatile, and on a day-to-day basis, it will go up
and down, but the general trend of raw materials over time is that
the price goes up unless some unusual thing happens to alter the
natural course of economics. I also addressed the possibility of the
price going down.

If you want to manage risk, you have to trade something for that.
That’s how finance works. (And usually how life works, come to think
of it.) This is one available trade. There are others that will work
better in other situations.

I was explicitly suggesting this approach for a class that one is
expecting to teach again and again, I said that in the post (twice,
so that nobody would miss it) and for which one knows the maximum
number of students, and I said that in the post, too. (I think that
accounts for a fair number of the classes that some instructors
teach.)

I didn’t suggest that anyone “expected” the instructor to take this
approach, but if the instructor wants to manage risk, this is one
way to do it. With this approach, at least you know exactly what you
are risking. The way things are currently done, the instructor is
"expected" to take on a good deal of risk that the price of
materials will skyrocket, and that does seem unfair.

I’m not suggesting that the world should continue to expect the
instructor’s crystal ball to predict the metals market, but every
class I’ve looked at with a kit fee specifies a precise dollar
amount. Karen posed a reasonable question, and I assumed, based on
her wording, that she accepted that she can change her own behavior
but doesn’t necessarily have the power to change how the whole rest
of the system works. I tried to answer the question she asked.

Sheesh. Kind of ironic that you have issues with students who have
trouble reading and following directions. :wink:


#9

This subject has been around for a loooong time. Let me tell you how
we work it at the art school where I teach.

There is a tuition fee for every student. That fee pays the school
and the instructors receive a percentage thereof.

In addition, each student pays a ‘student fee’ directly to the
instructor used to replenish expendables in the studio (the school
provides common studio equipment plus some recurring expendables such
as gas) and any special tools each instructor wants to use in
teaching or demonstrating specific techniques. Some of the fee is
also used to purchase metals for beginning students who have no idea
what they need or for what.

All beginning students are required to purchase their basic load of
tools from a list of required and optional items provided at the time
of registering. They are given several places to obtain these items
and an estimated cost. Advanced students are expected to obtain
specialty tools on their own.

Each instructor has their own way of teaching but most work in
similar ways. In my beginning classes, students must complete three
basic projects, each intended to introduce specific techniques and
building on the ones before it. There is no deviation from this
lesson plan. I provide all the metals for those three projects be it
copper, brass or silver. Part of the beginning classes are
instructions, both verbal and written, on how to estimate metal
needs, what to buy either for a specific project or to lay in
inventory for future projects and where to buy metals. By the time
students return for their second term, I expect them to provide their
own metals but I always carry certain items for ‘emergencies’ which I
sell as needed at the original cost.

Some instructors who teach special subject matter (such as metal
clay) provide tool kits that they sell to the students because they
are not readily available otherwise. In addition, there always seems
to be tools left behind which, if their owner cannot be determined,
are placed in a common use drawer for use by those who don’t have a
tool they need.

I do not recommend an instructor trying to ‘guess the market’ and
providing volatile items, such as metal, as part of an overall fee.
That is a no win situation. The price of tools does go up (but never
down it seems) but is not volatile and and ‘estimated’ tool kit cost
can easily be provided before the student comes to their first class.
Of course I’ve only been doing this for 10 years so maybe others have
more to say about it.

Cheers from Don in SOFL.


#10

Base the kit price on the current fix. If tool prices flip out then
there should also be an adjustment. Policy must be stated before they
sign up.

One of the things you should also be teaching is how to price. There
are other classes which teach about playing the futures market :slight_smile:

jeffD
Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing
http://www.gmavt.net/~jdemand


#11

It has been my case for many semesters that I can get trade
discounts on a regular basis from my caster and tool supplier. I deal
with only one of these companies per need. It is with these 10+%
discounts the schools can get more power to their dollar when signing
up new students.

I totally abhor little surprises at the time of picking the
merchandise of hidden extra $$$. I know what my budget is even in
procuring the CZ’s on a volume selection. When I am at the office I
ask for the cheapest and maybe a 1/2 mm.size smaller…I now even
select thinner style of rings in silver that are to be used in
setting…all of these examples keep the costs down to a more
manageable “point of sale” level. Why buy a ring of 7 grams when a
ring of 4 grams will suffice?*

As now in Toronto all of our needs are now subjected to a darned 13%
added tax on everything…:frowning: This new tax structure eats into our
buying budget. We have to be now more careful in “volume buying” for
our students. If our classes are to continue, we must stop now and
watch the costs at all levels…real scary times!

Gerry!
Gerry Lewy


#12
Yes, the market is volatile, and on a day-to-day basis, it will go
up and down, but the general trend of raw materials over time is
that the price goes up unless some unusual thing happens to alter
the natural course of economics. I also addressed the possibility
of the price going down. 

My point is that the schools and students seem to expect that the
price be specified in advance and I feel this is an imposition on
the instructor and was trying to point out why.

If you want to manage risk, you *have* to trade something for
that. That's how finance works. (And usually how life works, come
to think of it.) This is one available trade. There are others that
will work better in other situations. 

I am not asking for a solution in how to price to manage risk. That
is easy, you just significantly over price your materials fees but
this is hardly fair to the students. As a commodity item it should be
supplied based on the current market price not some inflated price
intended to insulate the instructor or school from the vagaries of
the market.

I was explicitly suggesting this approach for a class that one is
expecting to teach again and again, I said that in the post
(twice, so that nobody would miss it) and for which one knows the
maximum number of students, and I said that in the post, too. (I
think that accounts for a fair number of the classes that some
instructors teach.) 

A issue with your suggestion is how often is it taught and do you
always get the the max students. Because now you are tying up your
capital in metal that may or may not be sold at the next class.
Again I do not think it is good for a instructor to try to act like a
metals supplier. Even if you teach on a regular basis there is no way
for you to truly hedge your holding of metals for a future class
other than by adding a significant fudge factor into the costs.

I didn't suggest that anyone "expected" the instructor to take
this approach, but if the *instructor* wants to manage risk, this
is one way to do it. With this approach, at least you know exactly
what you are risking. The way things are currently done, the
instructor is "expected" to take on a good deal of risk that the
price of materials will skyrocket, and that does seem unfair. 

Which was my point

I'm not suggesting that the world should continue to expect the
instructor's crystal ball to predict the metals market, but every
class I've looked at with a kit fee specifies a precise dollar
amount. Karen posed a reasonable question, and I assumed, based on
her wording, that she accepted that she can change her own
behavior but doesn't necessarily have the power to change how the
whole rest of the system works. I tried to answer the question she
asked. 

And my suggestion is based on the idea that maybe if the schools are
made aware of the issue we can get them to look at kit prices that
float with the market. Everyone in this field whether as a student
or professional knows about and deals with the market fluctuations in
their purchasing of their own materials so why should the workshop
classroom environment be insulated from this reality?

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#13
My point is that the schools and students seem to expect that the
price be specified in advance and I feel this is an imposition on
the instructor and was trying to point out why. 

Perhaps you have the clout to change this, and if you do, I
sincerely wish you the best of luck, because I agree, the current
system is not in anybody’s best interests.

I am not asking for a solution in how to price to manage risk. 

It sounded to me as if the OP was. That’s why I was answering HER in
the way I did.

A issue with your suggestion is how often is it taught and do you
always get the the max students. Because now you are tying up your
capital in metal that may or may not be sold at the next class. 

Again, this is ONE way one can manage risk IF you teach the same
class again and again (which I stipulated was part of when this might
work). If you don’t get the max students this time, you have less to
order for next time. And, in some cases, instructors are teaching
techniques that they use in their own work, and may be using
materials in class that they use in their own work, another place to
use any leftovers.

Again I do not think it is good for a instructor to try to act
like a metals supplier. Even if you teach on a regular basis there
is no way for you to truly hedge your holding of metals for a
future class other than by adding a significant fudge factor into
the costs. 

If you’re having to purchase the metals for the classes, you ARE
acting as a metals supplier. Whether that’s good or bad, it’s the
current reality, and unless you can change the system, one needs to
find the best way for oneself to work within it. Knowing exactly
what you’re risking may be the most comfortable way for some folks;
it would be for me – I’d rather have the cash tied up but know
exactly how MUCH cash was on the table. But I’m not everyone, and I
never suggested that this was the be-all, end-all solution for
anyone, just an option to consider if “just in time” isn’t working
for you.

I didn’t suggest that this approach would work for everyone, and it
may not work for anyone. There probably isn’t ONE approach that
will work for everyone. But maybe we can help people think about
other ways to look at their current approaches and see what else
might work for them. We may not all have the power to change the
world, but we DO have the power to change ourselves.


#14

Hi,

I’ve been traveling, and not keeping up with Orchid on a daily
basis, but I thought I’d mentinon what I do. I’ve been calculating
the metals kit at the time I send the info to the school, and asking
them to state something like: " The kit is expected to cost around
$75, but the exact price will be determined at the time of the
workshop, due to the volatility of metals prices." I have not had any
problem with the schools, nor the students, with this approach.

My two cents,
Cynthia Eid
(in Vermont, at a music camp, for a week of vacation)


#15

Thanks everyone who have been responding. Your answers are quite
informative.

This brings up more questions. Would it be acceptable to add in the
class description or in the supply list that prices could increase
due to supply availability and volatility in metal pricing?

Should contracts between teachers and schools spell the conditions
of our expenses more clearly rather than it usurped into our salary?

As I am packing and shipping for two back to back workshops,
guess-timating the total supplies which also involves, shipping from
one site to the next, packing, purchasing and watching what used to
be available from one vendor now discontinued. Part of my time is
searching out supplies from several vendors, my time on the phone, my
time packing all my resin, flex shaft supplies, etc. My supply kit
does not include just what we use in class, but always extra for the
student to keep learning and practicing on their own.

This is a good and useful thread as it is meant more for the teacher
on the road, rather than supplies used regularly in a multi-week
class.

I’m working this out, line item by line item with help from a
business person. One we don’t want to scare off the students who have
already shelled out a ton of money to take the class, but at the same
time I don’t want to lose my shirt. I have a bit of wiggle room, but
the point is ordering, striking the amount for each student when you
have only a couple of weeks before the class commences. It is a lot
of work to judge how this will all go down when the class is
advertised a year in advanced and contracts are signed. Fine if I am
teaching in my own back yard. A different story when I am zooming
around the country.

I make kits because it is my insurance that the class will flow well
and I can teach at my best. That is my job…to teach.

There is a huge amount of on pricing your finished
rings, repair, selling your work, etc. Workshop instructors are in
business. It’s not just jewelry, but these questions are coming from
my other friends who teach in fine art craft.

All comments are welcome, so keep them coming.

Karen Christians
Cleverwerx


#16

My point is that the schools and students seem to expect that the
price be specified in advance and I feel this is an imposition on
the instructor and was trying to point out why.

Perhaps you have the clout to change this, and if you do, I
sincerely wish you the best of luck, because I agree, the current
system is not in anybody's best interests. 

The only way it will change is if we all begin to discuss the issue
and bring it up when dealing with the schools when setting up
classes. If we dont then it will just go on forever this way.

Again I do not think it is good for a instructor to try to act
like a metals supplier. Even if you teach on a regular basis there
is no way for you to truly hedge your holding of metals for a
future class other than by adding a significant fudge factor into
the costs.

If you're having to purchase the metals for the classes, you ARE
acting as a metals supplier. Whether that's good or bad, it's the
current reality, and unless you can change the system, one needs
to find the best way for oneself to work within it. 

I guess it depends on your definition, to me if I am just passing on
the cost for a fixed number of kits without having to hold on to the
material and endure the vagaries of the market then I don’t see
myself in the metals supply business. But if I am continuously
holding onto stock and never sure of the number of kits I am going to
"sell" at a class then I am in the metals supply business.

I didn't suggest that this approach would work for everyone, and
it may not work for anyone. There probably *isn't* ONE approach
that will work for everyone. But maybe we can help people think
about other ways to look at their current approaches and see what
else might work for them. We may not all have the power to change
the world, but we DO have the power to change ourselves. 

I agree with you on most of this but we do have the power to change
the world if we raise the concern and educate the schools on the
issue. Again all the people who have any experience with buying
metal are aware that it is a commodity item with a fluctuating price
so why should it be so difficult to have supply kits that are given a
final price based on the spot market say 30 days before the class.
This gives everyone time to deal with ordering and other issues.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#17

Why is kit assembly NOT a responsibility of the sponsoring
organization? And any extras that will supplement/enrich the learning
experience, the responsibility/option of the instructor? It certainly
sounds like too much guessing and orchestrating and cash outlay in
advance before it’s even known that a class will actually run, for
the instructor to bear.

I’m even further out on the periphery of this business than I ever
was, but I’m still reading. Please excuse if this is irrelevant or
entirely uninformed.

Christine, in overcast Littleton, Massachusetts


#18
Why is kit assembly NOT a responsibility of the sponsoring
organization? And any extras that will supplement/enrich the
learning experience, the responsibility/option of the instructor?
It certainly sounds like too much guessing and orchestrating and
cash outlay in advance before it's even known that a class will
actually run, for the instructor to bear. 

There is no reason why kit assembly should be either the instructor
or the sponsoring organizations responsibility other than in those
instances where either (1) the student needs something basic to get
started or (2) there is no time for the student to learn how to
estimate and obtain necessary materials (such as Karen’s comment
about doing ‘on the road workshops’). As I have stated before, part
of basic jewelry making (or any other subject for that matter) is
learning how to estimate what is needed for a process or project. You
get them the most basic load to get started then teach the students
how to go about figuring what they need, how much and where its best
to get it. Otherwise, you are cheating them of a very important part
of the process. It has nothing to do with “who” pays…ultimately,
the student is going to pay anyway since neither the instructor or
the sponsor should be expected to provide gratis that which the
student wants to use.

I believe we are all making this much more complicated than it needs
to be. My two cents…from Don in SOFL


#19

I only have the perspective of the student, not the instructor.
However, I must say that I’m totally surprised by some of the
replies. As a student, I expect that the cost of the class + supplies
reasonable value for what I’m learning. It’s a typical value
proposition.

Of course I’d expect that the instructor would be charging more for
the supplies than his/her direct costs. It’s unreasonable to think
that all of the time, effort, risk and preparation would be borne by
the instructor. I don’t care how the instructor figures out how much
to charge me, as long as the total cost (class, supplies,
transportation, hotel, my time, etc.) that I pay is worth what I’m
going to learn.

If I were to “design” an approach for an instructor to use, I’d
categorize the different supplies into different markup categories
with markups ranging from 10% to 40%, depending on price volatility,
supplier dependability, my time involved, etc. An easier way would
be to add a 20%-25% markup to all supplies. You’re providing a
service and deserve to be compensated for it.

And if the markup comes out to be too much for a particular class,
and the guilt is eating you up, you can give a cash rebate during
the class or purchase a “bonus” tool for each student.

Jamie


#20

Karen Christians brings up some good points about teaching workshops
and kit prices and contracts. I teach 25 to 30 workshops a year.
They are generally multi-day events, the majority of them involve
travel, and most of them are arranged up to a year in advance,
sometimes much further.

I approach the issue of material costs by using the highest metal
spot price within the last year as my base price. Sometimes this
works out well, other times it falls a bit short. So, on top of that,
I figure out a slight safety margin in case the price goes up beyond
reasonable expectation.

I don’t especially like to warehouse metals and stock materials far
ahead of events. I am not, unlike many instructors, making a
significant markup or profit on my kit fees. I am merely trying to
provide enough materials to accomplish the workshop curriculum within
a budget per student that covers the metal costs and any incidental
expenses such as shipping.

In the case of the most popular workshops which I teach several
times each year, I occasionally order larger amounts of metals but as
much as I am able to I prefer not to tie up resources in materials
that sit around for a long time. When the price is at a low point I
tend to order enough materials for several workshops if I have
several on the calendar. I am content to do this because I don’t
cancel workshops. When I set a date I use a contract (mine, not the
venue’s) and I fully intend to be on site at the stated date and time
and teach a room full of students. I don’t believe in the attitude of
"well, we’ll see how much interest we can get and if the workshop
will run". I don’t schedule with venues presenting that attitude.

There are too few days on my annual calendar to work with
noncommittal coordinators and unenthusiastic program directors.

I also require a substantial non-refundable deposit with the return
of my signed contract to put a date on my calendar. The
non-refundable deposit is the venue’s way of showing good faith and
demonstrating the intention of doing their part to promote and
publicize the event and fill the benches.

The potential forfeit of the deposit, if they choose to cancel the
date, is their incentive to be as serious about the event as I am,
and to devote the proper amount of attention and resources to
ensuring a successful program.

I believe their risk needs to be equal to mine. Venues don’t tend to
cancel my events when they have made a financial investment to secure
a date on my workshop calendar.

This approach may not work for everyone else who is teaching but it
works exceptionally well for me. I am in business as a professional
educator and consultant. Like any other business, I rely on well
described contractual agreements which clearly outline all of the
details and responsibilities of

both parties involved. It makes the business of teaching simple,
pleasant,

and equitable. Out of 40+ venues where I have presented workshops in
the past few years there are only one or two with whom I won’t work
again. This has been due to difficulties with the venue management,
lack of professionalism, incompetence, and an absence of the
commitment to excellence I put into my work and that I expect from
others.

Your mileage may vary
Michael David Sturlin
http://michaelsturlinstudio.ganoksin.com/blogs/