A generation of unrealised talent will be the cultural legacy of Covid-19 unless we use the financial lifelines the sector has been offered to diversify the industry and extend access to careers, says Tina Ramdeen.
Cesare De Giglio
It is estimated that youth unemployment could hit two million as a result of Covid-19. This is something that is being felt across the cultural sector with the Creative Industries Federation warning of a ‘cultural catastrophe’, predicting that 119,000 permanent creative workers will be made redundant and 287,000 freelance roles terminated by the end of 2020. We already know that career aspirations are at odds with the jobs available in our sector, and mass job losses will only exacerbate this.
But unemployment statistics paint just part of the picture. Those who are under-employed –people who don’t have enough paid work or aren’t in jobs that use their skills to the best ability – are another side of the story. Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and some ethnic minorities are more likely to be under-employed than their peers, which can go on to have a long-lasting, negative impact on their future.
Last week, the government announced the Kickstart campaign that promises to create six-month placements for 16 to 24-year-olds receiving Universal Credit. The number of young people claiming benefits doubled at the start of lockdown so these opportunities will be competitive. The placements could offer a glimmer of hope for the young people who want to work in our sector, but there must be a focus on offering ongoing opportunities to disadvantaged young people, or those who have been long-term unemployed. They need to be good quality placements that focus on skills development and progression pathways so that it can lead to sustained and meaningful employment for young people. They also need to be targeted to disadvantaged young people and young people from certain ethnic minorities who we know are less likely to have opportunities in our sector, and also more likely to be under-employed.
Young people we work with told us they need support with developing their employability skills, which is why our current phase of Round Your House, in partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies, has a focus on skills development and careers. This includes resources for freelancers and entrepreneurs, and roundtable discussions with industry leaders such as Spotify and Giant Artist Management. We’ve also made a commitment to continue with our Campus development – a new building on the Roundhouse site for 18-30 year-olds where we will deliver new strands of work so that young people can hone their skills and develop their businesses in the creative industries. It will include affordable space, facilities and equipment to help them do this.
We need to recognise that young people from privileged backgrounds are more likely to have the networks and skills to enter the sector through personal connections or support with applications. Given this reality, the importance of early intervention and support from arts organisations and the private sector is crucial to ensuring equality of opportunity later on. We are fortunate to work with partners such as Spotify and Taylor Wessing, who help expand opportunities for the young people we work with. This partnership working will be vital in the coming months to offer advice and progression opportunities.
The government has thrown the sector a lifeline with its £1.5bn financial commitment, but the majority of venues are still left in a precarious position, which has a huge impact on the staff in those buildings and the freelancers who work with them. Young people from BAME and low socio-economic backgrounds were underrepresented in the sector prior to Covid-19. The new funding in addition to the £2bn Kickstart scheme offers a huge opportunity to increase access to careers in the creative sector, diversify the industry and harness young talent.
We cannot let the cultural legacy of Covid-19 be a generation of unrealised talent.
Tina Ramdeen is Head of Youth Policy and Engagement, Roundhouse