As well as supplying the industry's new recruits, they also have to train more experienced workers on one-off, bespoke courses tailored for particular companies, which may need training at any level from basic health and safety to management at NVQ level 5.
Technology is changing rapidly, and although valuable lessons can be learned on older equipment, students also need experience with materials that are industry standard.
West Herts College draws on funding from the Department of Trade and Industry and other agencies. But Ravensbourne, as an independent specialist college, has its own industry advisory board which assists with current information and acquisition of equipment.
Good links with industry are also needed for the work placements that build up experience and create an effective CV. This means developing not just the technical skills but client skills too.
Cherr Cole, head of broadcasting at Ravensbourne, insists that students must be prepared to meet almost any demands on their commitment and resourcefulness, whether it means missing a family wedding or acquiring a packet of tampons at 1am.
Ravensbourne's work placement officer can arrange up to five placements for each student during their course.
Business skills are also necessary. As well as the technical aspects, the BA course in media production management at West Herts includes substantial elements on people skills, including self-management, human resources, business, strategic management and media policy.
In an industry with fierce competition for jobs, the college also has to be prepared to lose those students who have had an offer they cannot refuse.
The West Herts HND is embedded within the BA, so the few students who leave before their degree still have a qualification.
"We pride ourselves on being pragmatic about it," said senior lecturer Ron Southwell. "After all, we are preparing people for jobs."