From education to employment

The Seven Year Itch – The State of the Nations

Dr. Simon T Dancey, CEO, Creative & Cultural Skills

The Challenge

Having spent the last seven years working outside of the UK with international skills systems and policy, I found on my return that the UK cultural sector skills landscape still had many of the same issues it had when I left:

  • Underfunded and undervalued FE sector,
  • Lack of social mobility, and
  • Sector skills shortages.

Skills councils’ days appeared to have come and gone in terms of central government funding, and the cultural sector was filled with what appeared to be many competing agents.

Taking up position as CEO at Creative & Cultural Skills in the autumn, I talked to many FE colleges across the UK, amongst many other stakeholders.

A number of key questions emerged that helped shape what would be a refocussing of our vision and mission.

Whilst often seeming rather grand and utopian, a return to basic principles and questions helped this shaping:

  • What type of cultural sector do we want?
  • What is the role of education and skills?
  • What is the balance between education and empowerment?
  • How do we tackle structural inequality?

Whilst never being able to fully answer these questions, our emergent vision was shaped by them: we are on a mission to change and support the sector we work to serve.

Our vision is to create a just and better skilled cultural sector by focussing on two main areas:

  1. Education and skills, and
  2. The social transformation of access

The Change

The fast-changing nature of the cultural sector

One of the main areas of refocussing for us also involves a strengthening of the evidence we have relating to sector skills needs and policy options. We need to be better informed around the fast-changing nature of the cultural sector.

We also need to engage with the idea of social transformation and culture. This includes researching and continuing to track what the sector looks like, and who has access to it.

The terrifying dominance of the white middle classes and their values across the cultural sector needs to be challenged.

Our job is to diversify the sector, to bring in people from all backgrounds and help unlock the potential of young people, and one example of how we are doing this is the Cultural Ambition project in Wales.

The Cultural Ambition project

Funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Skills for the Future fund and Welsh Government, the Cultural Ambition project will create 33 twelve-month placements for young people who are not in education, employment or training. The first cohort of trainees started last September, with a further nine in January 2019.

They have been placed in sites across Wales including Caernarfon Castle, Plas Mawr, Wrexham Museum & Archives, the National Library of Wales, the National Waterfront Museum, Big Pit and Glamorgan Archives.

Special recognition will be given to these trainees at our Skills Awards ceremony today (1st April) at the National Museum Cardiff.

Creative Careers Programme

A second approach involves our work with DCMS. Creative & Cultural Skills is delighted to be working in partnership with ScreenSkills and the Creative Industries Federation to deliver a Creative Careers Programme designed to help 2 million teenagers discover the breadth of jobs on offer in the UK’s fastest-growing sector.

The programme will provide up-to-date information on the range of careers many young people have never even heard of, and will train careers advisers about the pathways to those roles, helping a more diverse range of young people to take up the exciting opportunities available.

The ambition is to reach more than 160,000 students through face-to-face encounters by 2020, with around 2 million young people accessing information online.

We need to help a wider range of young people learn about the variety of occupations across the creative industries, and we must also help employers think a little differently about who and how they recruit new and diverse talent to help fill skills gaps, and ensure our sector can thrive for years to come.

One of the great lessons I learnt from working outside of the UK was around the power of joint working communitarianism, not competition between agencies.

Alongside this, the ability to construct a differing imaginary of what skills and culture can look like is vital to ensure that in another seven years we are nor still dealing with the same issues.

Dr. Simon T Dancey, CEO, Creative & Cultural Skills

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