With new demands being made for skills and training, Jane Ide asks: is this going to help young people into work?
© Briony Campbell
There are a lot of changes proposed to the way the workforce will be trained and skilled for the cultural sector. Is any of this going to help the young people that so desperately rely on these pathways into work, or will it simply remain business as usual?
Good news, bad news
The Department for Education’s Skills White Paper released in late January promised some long-awaited solutions that would be well-considered and industry responsive. At first glance, we were encouraged to see some commitments that we’d been repeatedly asking for, year after year. It includes flexibilities for apprenticeships to make them easier to manage for sectors like the creative industries that have atypical working patterns. It also includes modular training approaches to support lifelong learning and professional development for further education staff, including closer links with the industry, which makes up an important part of our work at CCSkills. The Local Skills Improvement Plans also encourage employers and educators to work together; this is essential for proper skills development. Up-to-date Labour Market Information to inform priorities was another welcome addition. And last, but far from last in our thoughts, careers education for everyone and parity of esteem between technical education and academia.
We welcome these ambitions as they aim to improve the quality and availability of technical and vocational training options for careers in our sector and see that these are aligned to the needs of local industry. These commitments present an opportunity to remove the stigma that has so long been attached to non-academic training routes. This helps bust the myth that these are second-rate options for ‘underperforming’ learners and gives deserved credibility to technical training on the job, all the while supporting a broad and diverse pool of talent, from school leavers to career changers, to pursue a training routes that works for them at a pace that works for them.
On a less optimistic note, we’ve heard all of this before. The rhetoric of ‘we’ll develop the skills that employers need’ and ‘we will work closely with employers to identify solutions’ may be music to our ears, but it’s a very familiar tune to the one played for many years.
Of greater concern is the expectation that employers will sit at the heart of these solutions. They are being asked to inform occupational standards for all technical training options, provide work experience for traineeships and industry placements for T levels, support teachers’ professional development, and co-design local skills plans. At CCSkills, we are still asking employers to embrace apprenticeships as well as ensuring their recruitment and employment practices are fair and inclusive. On top of all that, they still need to keep themselves employed and in business under the worst circumstances experienced for generations. So the question must be asked: what will be different this time and how do we ensure that an employer led skills and training landscape works for the future workforce?
A strong technical education system cannot exist without industry at its heart; that much is self-evident. But the cultural sector is unique in being comprised of many microbusiness and SMEs whose immediate priority has to be their potentially years-long recovery. While the White Paper talks of the support given to training providers, there is no mention of ensuring employers are up to the challenge that it demands of them. Without a focussed effort to bridge the gap between industry and the future workforce, how can the sector be expected to meet these new ambitions?
At CCSkills, we’re on a mission to close that gap, which is why we’re proud to have been confirmed as a gateway organisation for Creative Kickstart: a UK-wide job creation scheme to transform the lives of young people up and down the country whose employment chances have been hardest hit by the devastating impact of Covid-19.
We're delighted to have ringfenced up to £5million to support hundreds of young people to gain meaningful work experience and employment within the cultural sector and look forward to rolling out the scheme in the coming weeks and months, galvanising our sector to 'Build Back Fairer.'
In the spirit of bringing together industry and education, we’re equally excited to have our Discover! Creative Careers event take place as part of National Careers Week. This programme, shortlisted for CDI’s UK Career Development Awards 2021 in the Innovative Employer Engagement Category, is an opportunity for employers across the creative industries to talk directly to young people who will make up the future workforce, giving them the opportunity to discover the breadth of rich careers our sector offers and the variety of different pathways in. It is a tangible example of the relationships that can be built between education and industry when support exists to bring them together.
Moving forward we will continue to provide new and impactful ways for employers and training providers to 'bridge the (skills) gap' in order to make the most of the opportunities presented by this new skills landscape. After all, the ambitions of the latest White Paper are welcome – but it’s the reality of what happens next that matters.
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.