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Employers in arts, culture and heritage face hard choices about what to invest in and how to effectively plan for the long term, writes Michelle Wright.


Against the backdrop of redundancies across the UK, the Office of National Statistics is reporting that under 25s made up nearly two thirds of the drop in paid employment since February 2020. This is more than 415,000 people. 

We’re waiting for the Government’s Kickstart scheme, which will offer 16 to 24-year-olds routes into paid employment at little cost to employers, to take effect. It’s a difficult time for young people wanting to take their first steps into the creative industries. Yet before the pandemic, creative industries were growing five times faster than the national economy and worth £13m every hour - that’s more than £100bn a year.

Making the apprenticeship levy work

Despite the rate of growth, many employers are still not using their apprenticeship levy four years after its introduction in 2017. Of course, right now, investment in training or new roles for employers working on contracts is problematic, given that apprenticeships must last a minimum of 12 months.  But there is also a historical reliance on more traditional routes to employment, for example graduate schemes that won’t be enough to support young people over the next period.

In fundraising, one of the biggest difficulties for employers looking to invest is the lack of professional development routes that can support candidates into employment and keep them there. Our report ‘Accident Prevention’ outlines how we urgently need to understand the support and training pathways that fundraisers need to succeed and prove where new partnerships, programmes and collaborations are needed most. This could include apprenticeships, entry-level trainee schemes or internships such as the Arts Fundraising Fellowship, underpinned by on-the-job learning, mentoring, professional training and accredited routes.

The road to apprenticeships is hard

Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy, in its sector support organisation (SSO) role for Arts Council England, has been looking at these routes and scoping accredited career pathways for fundraisers from apprenticeship level through to professional development and even PhD level. We’ve been working on this for three years but, despite ongoing support from Creative & Cultural Skills, the apprenticeship part of our aspiration has been stubbornly difficult to achieve.

There are multiple reasons for this: one is the perception that apprenticeships are not gold standard.  Additionally, the level 3 fundraising apprenticeship framework needed development. And perhaps most importantly, apprenticeships are hard to access for those not paying the levy and mired in bureaucracy. As a small enterprise, we found the accreditation requirements of apprenticeships impossible to access at first. The levy fee itself is controversial to the many firms that find it excessively interventionist. It’s a shame these barriers exist, especially when we recognise small and medium-sized enterprises that are creating jobs five times faster than big business — yet only a quarter of these firms are currently offering apprenticeships.

Arts Fundraising apprenticeship coming soon

We have persisted and in September we will launch a brand new Arts Fundraising Apprenticeship (level 3) in partnership with the Bauer Academy. Working initially with a group of brilliant Northern based arts and cultural levy payers, our aim is to reach the most diverse talent. 

Genevieve Potter, General Manager of the Bauer Academy, the training division of Bauer Media, describes the Academy as a living, breathing testament to the value of apprenticeships within the creative industries, with all of the diversity that they bring. The range of work includes apprenticeships with a major advertising agency who have recently introduced the ‘Junior Advertising Creative’ level 3 apprenticeship, opening their doors to talent who may well have thought a ‘posh’ advertising agency wasn’t for them.  Poets, sculptors, shelf stackers and DJs are amongst the latest cohort of apprenticeship learners to start their formal training, backed up by mentoring within the agency. Let loose on client briefs from day one, the programme is a brilliant example of the work-based training and employer enlightenment that apprenticeships deserve. 
Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy is co-designing an 18-month apprenticeship programme with Bauer, based on the ‘Fundraiser level 3 Apprenticeship Standard’ that will specifically meet the needs of the arts, cultural and creative sectors, as well as increasing skills and capabilities in fundraising. Bauer Academy will run remote monthly workshops and learners will need to dedicate 20% of their normal working hours towards studying for their qualification. Like all of our training, the skilled arts fundraising training will make sure apprentices learn from people working directly in arts fundraising.

The programme blends interactive face-to-face workshops with assignments, e-learning, coaching, mentoring and self-guided learning.  Learners are given work related projects and assignments throughout to maximise the impact on working practices and are supported by a teaching team of industry experts and academics, and a dedicated development coach. The programme can be used for existing employees as well as new starters. It is suitable for anyone who is or will be responsible for delivering day-to-day fundraising activities and campaigns, either at the start of their career or eyeing more senior fundraising roles.  

Creativity is about humans solving problems. Apprenticeships provide a brilliant, class-free way to learn those skills. As the creative sector prepares to come roaring back, let’s hope that employers who have ruled out apprenticeships will keep going along the long and winding road towards making it happen. 

Michelle Wright is the CEO of Cause4 and Programme Director of the Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy Programme.

This article is part of a series on the theme Fundraising for the Future, contributed by Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy.

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Headshot of Michelle Wright