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An ArtsProfessional feature in partnership with ccskills

Rishi Sunak said hard hit workforces like the arts may have to retrain to adapt to the new economy. Sara Whybrew counters that the new economy means we must adapt our approach to training.

Two people reading a script

The creative sector is serious business. Before the Covid-19 crisis, its value to the UK was more than £111bn a year, the second largest contributor to the economy, and it was the country’s fastest growing sector – to say nothing of the years of dedication and training required by practitioners to excel in careers of choice. So why are these careers now not considered to be ‘proper’ jobs?

There’s no denying the creative sector has been hit hard by the pandemic. Even recovery grants and organisations developing new ways to reach audiences are not enough to completely save the creative industries from the virus’ devastating impact. The sector will rebuild as it has done so many times before, but to achieve this it needs to support the existing workforce and attract a new generation of workers. Neither of these things will happen if the prevailing mood outside the sector is that creative workers would be better off retraining for other careers.

This is not limited to one source. After an interview in which Chancellor Rishi Sunak said people would have to adapt for employment, ITV was criticised for implying his comments were directed towards musicians and artists. This impression was exacerbated by the now-notorious ‘Fatima’ poster, advertising government-supported vocational courses, suggesting that a ballerina’s next job could be in information technology.

These examples were taken out of context but the scale of the reaction to them indicates how many in the creative sector do not feel valued. Despite being a powerhouse of the UK economy, creative careers are frequently perceived as ‘soft’ options that can be easily discarded.

Talent pipeline

This is bad for the morale of a sector still reeling from the pandemic, but it could be devastating when it comes to recruiting the next generation. When recovery begins, it will require an influx of young, talented individuals. They will need to be shown paths into the sector, the variety of roles available and, above all, that these jobs are important and valued.

But this information is not getting across. Our 2018 report on Current and Future Skills Needs highlighted that almost 84% of businesses agreed that young people were unaware of the breadth of career paths available in the creative and cultural sector. And nearly 68% agreed there were not enough young people studying arts and creative subjects in school.

As a response to this, Creative & Cultural Skills is working with partners to deliver the Creative Careers Programme in both England and Wales. This encourages businesses to help inspire and inform young people about the breadth of roles across the creative industries

Building back better

Having reached 90,000 people in its inaugural year, our next event will be Discover! Creative Careers Week between 23-27 November, in partnership with Arts Council of Wales, Ffilm Cymru, ScreenSkills and Trac Cymru. This will provide an online careers programme available to schools, careers advisers, young people and new entrants in Wales, and an online conference specifically for careers advisers.

Digital Discover! Week will continue in England as part of National Careers Week (1-5 March 2021); work is already underway with partners and organisations for this. Our goal is not only to help employers think differently about who and how they recruit, but also to enable a wider, more diverse range of young people to learn about the variety of occupations across the sector from the people who do them. In this way, we can assert that these jobs are still viable in a post-Covid world.

It’s not simply enough to build back better. We want to build back fairer. If our sector is to recover and thrive for years to come, then everyone involved – and those responsible for supporting it – must recognise the great potential the creative sector has and ensure its workforce is open to all.

Sara Whybrew is Director, Policy and Developmentat Cultural & Creative Skills

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.

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Photo of Sara Whybrew