The creative sector will bounce back, writes Jane Ide. What matters is building a more inclusive sector – and not just because it’s the right thing to do.
A month into the new year, many of our friends and partner organisations will still be feeling the shock of the old one. The increased Covid-19 restrictions around the UK have hurt many cultural institutions at a time when they could expect to be at their busiest.
We have to hope that, while the next few months will continue to be extremely challenging, the end is surely in sight.
A decade to build on
In the past, our sector has always been able to bounce back stronger than ever from major economic challenges. The recent DCMS Economic Estimates show the creative industries were the fastest growing sector in the decade following the worldwide recession. By 2019, they contributed £115.9bn gross value added to the UK economy, second only to the digital sector.
An even greater challenge faces the sector now but, with many organisations fighting to survive until the next quarter, it is imperative we not only build back better but fairer and more inclusive. Now is our opportunity to really future-proof our sector by focusing on attracting and retaining the most diverse, creative, and inclusive workforce it has ever had.
Despite its successes over the past ten years, there are still some poor practices running through the creative sector – unpaid internships and a lack of diversity are high on the list. Many organisations have stepped up to abolish unpaid work and embrace apprenticeships as a means of social inclusion, and they should be applauded for it. But there is a risk that employers will entrench their bad old practices under extreme economic pressure and the current need to urgently shore up and rebuild the industry. Early data is suggesting that we’ve become even less diverse during Covid. We need to objectively ask ourselves why, move beyond the symptoms and go straight to the heart of our issues.
In a world that has changed irrevocably, our sector needs to maximise the diversity and inclusivity of the workforce – and not just because it’s the right thing to do. Without diverse voices and experiences to influence thinking, bring out a wider range of ideas, challenge norms and drive change, organisations risk becoming irrelevant. They risk losing the competitive advantage that comes from fresh and innovative approaches. They risk losing audiences who are no longer willing to forgo seeing themselves and their lives represented. And they risk failing to build connections with new communities and audiences that others are already tapping into.
Now more than ever, a thriving, future-proofed cultural and creative sector needs to embrace the widest possible pool of available talent across all the communities of the UK.
Help is at hand. We’ve joined up with cultural organisations across the UK to lead the bid for Creative Kickstart: a UK-wide job creation scheme to transform the lives of hundreds of young people.
Creative & Cultural Skills is leading the Creative Kickstart bid for the cultural sector in partnership with Creative Society, Artswork, Curious Minds, Youth Music, IVE, UK Music, Federation of Scottish Theatre, and more.
We all share a common goal: to see a more diverse range of young people progress and thrive in our sector in the years to come. CCSkills has led this bid to ringfence much-needed funding for the sector so it can support the creation of hundreds of meaningful jobs for unemployed young people, in line with our Best Practice Guidance, and at the time of writing we’re optimistic that we’ll have news very soon.
However, we can’t deny that we’re more than a little concerned that, valuable though it is, the Kickstart scheme won’t have the impact it could at a time when career opportunities for young people are needed more than ever and so many sector employers need to be able to access financial support for their workforce plans. Recent news suggests that Kickstart has been slow to start, unambitious in its investment to date and in turn failed to support the breadth of young talent we know is ready to make the step into paid employment.
Despite the challenges of the current climate, we’re continuing our work with the hugely successful Discover! Creative Careers Week, providing the future workforce with insights into the range of roles that exist across the industries. With live visits replaced by a digital programme, Discover! Creative Careers 2021 will feature interviews with employees from world-leading shoemaking, gaming and television companies, as well as transformational heritage sites, theatres and craft companies. This will be followed by a new Discover! Industry Insights programme, supporting post-16 learners to take a deeper dive into learning about some of our more specialist, and often hidden, occupations.
These are just some of the programmes that we will be supporting in 2021, ensuring the creative industries will build back into not just one of the strongest elements of our economy, but the most open and inclusive.
This article, sponsored and contributed by Creative & Cultural Skills, is part of a series promoting apprenticeships and challenging entrenched social inequalities, to create a more diverse workforce.