It is five years since the creation of Creative & Cultural Skills, and many employers now agree that having a sector skills council for the creative industries has tangible benefits, writes Pauline Tambling.

An ‘Offstage Careers’ event

Like other sector skills councils, Creative & Cultural Skills (CCSkills) provides labour market intelligence, raises employer engagement in skills and ensures that qualifications meet the industry’s needs. Getting these things right enables us to influence skills policy, secure investment and bring together employers and the education sector. The Creative Blueprint provides the evidence we need to make the case for the sector’s role in economic growth. Our sector, although not recession-proof, has performed comparatively well. In 2007/08 it grew by 1.5%, while the business service sector declined by 1.6% and financial services declined 0.6%. With projected growth of 5% in 2009, there is good news on the horizon.

CCSkills covers advertising, craft, cultural heritage, design, literature, music, performing and visual arts across the UK. These sub-sectors are diverse, and generalisations across the different industries, business structures and business sizes don’t work. However, there are some interesting over-arching statistics. In the UK some 678,480 people work in our sector, in nearly 75,000 businesses. Graduates make up 54% of the workforce, and a high proportion hold a post-graduate qualification. The industry has a poor diversity record. Ninety-three per cent of the workforce is white, and some sub-sectors, for example commercial music, are mostly male.


We have identified eight key issues for the sector: entry routes, professional development, management and leadership, diversity, careers advice, creativity and cultural education in schools, qualifications reform, business and entrepreneurial skills, and the need for ongoing labour market intelligence. One industry-driven solution to some of these issues is the National Skills Academy (NSA). NSAs are part of a government initiative that helps employers drive formal education and specifically, although not exclusively, further education. There are 13 NSAs covering industries including food and drink, and nuclear power. Currently this is an England-only policy, but there is employer interest in NSAs in all the nations. One key issue for us is funding for our sector’s training needs. Education funding bodies are always keen to point out that at any one time there are some 750,000 young people in further and higher education studying cultural sector-related courses. Furthermore, all sector skills councils have written Sector Qualifications Strategies, which are intended to help education funders support the qualifications employers’ need to up-skill their workforce.

Herein lies one of our key challenges. Our sector does not use qualifications or accredited training to up-skill its workforce, but much of the funding available to employers, via initiatives such as Train to Gain, is linked to qualifications. CCSkills wants to change this. Our NSA is trying to solve a number of problems: the over-supply of further and higher education courses for performers and artists, with little provision that meets real skills gaps and employment needs; the lack of industry wide influence on higher and further education provision; and the lack of industry endorsed professional development frameworks across the sector. Our NSA is a network of 19 Founder Further Education Colleges and 170 employers. The colleges are working with employers to develop sector-wide provision, and employers are working with colleges and higher education institutions. Currently our employers are in theatres and live music venues, but from April 2010 we will open membership to the wider creative sector.


We have secured Learning and Skills Council (LSC) funding to establish an Apprenticeship training service, as well as £5m towards the cost of a new national training centre in Thurrock (AP206). This indicates that funders are willing to invest in our industry. Starting in April 2010, our apprenticeship training service will help non-graduates enter the sector, complementing the existing graduate entry routes. Working with the new National Apprenticeship Service, there will be 1,125 apprenticeship places over three years (AP205). Sector-specific creative apprenticeships will be available in areas such as music business, cultural venue management and community arts. For the first time, apprenticeships in support areas such as administration, IT and finance will also be available. As a result, young people from all social backgrounds will have the opportunity to get an entry-level job. Employers will, typically, offer the national minimum wage, and one of our Founder Colleges will provide LSC-funded training. The NSA will take on the administration associated with things like human resources.

We are also establishing a Continuing Professional Development framework to enable trainers to provide industry-endorsed provision, linked to education and training funding. The training will also be accredited and linked to National Occupational Standards. We won’t be running training ourselves, but we will be helping to bring our partners’ programmes into the mainstream so that our sector can benefit from government support and funding.

Careers information and guidance and other entry routes are other areas of focus. It is crucial that we work with the Connexions Service, JobCentrePlus and other careers advisors, alongside establishing more apprenticeship places. This month we began our first annual autumn programme of careers events in venues across the country. Through our website and our events we are providing information and guidance about how cultural sector employers and freelancers can engage. We’re also aiming to provide a service to help our employers benefit from schemes like the Future Jobs Fund and the Flexible New Deal. We want employers and freelancers to become Industry Members to help to shape this agenda.

Pauline Tambling is Managing Director, National Skills Academy for Creative & Cultural Skills.

This week Pauline saw Britten’s ‘Turn of the Screw’ at English National Opera, went to Turner and the Masters at Tate Britain, and attended a private view of portraits by Tanya Raabe at Shape.

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Photo of Pauline Tambling