A new report urges arts organisations to focus on skills rather than formal qualifications when recruiting staff, and to offer more leadership development training.
Informal channels for entering the arts and a reliance on “outdated” recruitment practices are preventing the sector from reflecting the diversity of the population, a new report commissioned by Arts Council England (ACE) has concluded.
The document highlights calls for the government to carry out a “proper audit” of skills required by the creative industries, and draws attention to areas where more research is needed to assess where skills gaps exist.
Consultants Consilium were asked to assess how leadership, workforce development and workforce diversity have changed in the arts since 2010. Over 100 studies were analysed, covering multiple artforms, with the aim of understanding how best to shape ACE’s future strategic priorities.
The report finds that the arts sector has proportionally fewer apprentices than other sectors, and that there is a lack of awareness about career opportunities in the arts.
It adds that poor industry links with education, ineffective recruitment mechanisms and a reliance on unpaid internships may limit the number of people seeking to enter the creative workforce.
A potential solution, raised in one study, is for organisations to post job opportunities in non-traditional ways and write job descriptions that “break down the hierarchy of education” and focus on skills rather than formal qualifications.
The report also paints a bleak picture of skills development in the sector, particularly in relation to the availability of Continuing Professional Development (CPD).
It finds the sector is looking for ‘T-shaped’ people, who combine a specialist focus with a wider range of business, planning, enterprise and digital capacities, and for people with the ability to think both creatively and practically. But it says these skills are not nurtured because of the “patchy nature of CPD opportunities”, which also means career progression is variable and lacks consistency.
“A lack of professionalism in some cultural sectors, including an almost complete absence of CPD and antiquated attitudes to flexible working, continues to create challenges for workers and is serving to hold these sectors back,” the authors write.
Recognising that development needs in the arts are diverse – and vary according to artform, level of public funding, and job type – the report notes that there have been calls for the Department for Education to carry out an audit of “the skills and education needed by the creative industries”.
The report also says that the prevalence of low pay makes it harder to attract talent, and that there are concerns about the loss of specialist skills and knowledge because of staffing reductions, redundancy and retirement. For those with children or caring responsibilities, the report says that “job competitiveness and insecurity is proving particularly challenging”.
The document says that while the skills needs of the creative industries don’t remain static over time, there is no system in place to monitor new and redundant skills. It says addressing this is important on a ‘granular’ level, because there will be different needs for different sub-sectors.
It calls for more longitudinal assessments comparing the relative effectiveness and value for money of programmes for developing leadership, management skills or productivity. There is hope in the sector that the creation of two new evidence centres will address such concerns.
The report also notes that while there is a growing use of short- or fixed-term appointments in the arts, and an increasing number of freelance contractors, there is an absence of any definitive data on these trends across the sector.