Is there more to careers fairs than free keyrings and Haribo? Carl Woodward visits two arts-orientated events to find out. 

Photo of audience at a Theatre Craft event

Careers fairs can be excellent or they can be unforgettably bad. Most are strikingly in between. But one organisation that is fuelling the industry with talent is Theatre Craft. It’s a well-established event, focused on offstage choices with a strong emphasis on training, apprenticeships and the essential ‘foot in the door’. It also happens to be one of the most interesting fairs.

If you are interested in a career in the arts, then careers fairs are a relaxed way of gaining insight. It is important not only to ‘experience’, but also to understand why the experience matters. All the world’s a classroom and events like this are about being in the room with other people and establishing yourself in a world you wish to explore.

Indhu Rubasingham, Artistic Director of the Tricycle Theatre and Theatre Craft 2015 Ambassador, told me: “I wish someone had told me that I had a right to be part of this industry and that my voice is important. You spend so much of your time feeling intimidated or thinking you have to be extraordinary. It’s having something to say and yielding your passion.”

In October, the Southbank Centre hosted ‘Careers in the Arts’, a day of free talks, workshops and Q&As for those aged 14-21. Ed Smith, Technical Director of Southbank Centre, had this practical advice for anyone wanting to get their foot in the door: “Work hard. Be nice to people, be friendly and you will get on. This is still one of the only remaining businesses where you can get right from the bottom to the top of the ladder just by working hard.” That’s easier said than done though, right?

It takes a certain level of confidence for any young person to independently sign up to and attend a careers fair. But if you want to get on and get ahead, then having an interest in the world around you and a compulsion to ask questions is essential in any field. Lauren Rourke, a student from Northampton, said: “It is so important to have an event like Theatre Craft. I have met loads of new people – always good in this industry. The sense of community that days like this promote and the advice you can seek is so inspiring!”

I enjoyed attending both events. There’s something about them that makes working in this competitive and ruthless industry seem really rather promising. Higher education establishments are producing large numbers of arts graduates, often unequipped with the skills to find employment. But these sorts of events are potentially transformative for people from all walks of life.

We need more events like these, especially in the regions – both of these examples took place in London. They must be about meaningful engagement, not free keyrings, Haribo and a day off timetable. And they must be geared towards helping young people not just to survive the times, but to change them. Young people need to be able to exercise leadership, and to achieve their own emancipation. Careers fairs can enable them to see the industry from a different perspective, whilst inspiring them to succeed as the next generation of arts professionals.

Carl Woodward is a Media and Learning Specialist.

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