From education to employment

Watch this space! – the backstage training centre

It can be surprising how little attention the FE sector receives from the mainstream media considering all that goes on. One of the things we hope our FE Founder Colleges can get from their association with the National Skills Academy for Creative & Cultural is a little bit of ‘stardust’ from projects such as our exclusive Design competitions with the Royal Opera House that in turn can help FE promote their own colleges and students.

On another positive note, we would hope that the building that is currently being constructed in Essex next to the Royal Opera House’s Production Workshop – our new national training centre for backstage technicians in the live music and theatre industries – will also provide opportunities for better coverage of FE through their engagement and association. The access FE will have to this centre, which is big enough for the world’s best rock bands to rehearse in before they go out on tour, builds nicely upon opportunities we are currently providing through our industry membership with FE learners shadowing fit ups and get ins at major music festivals this summer including Glastonbury, Latitude and the Big Chill.

The development of the first purpose built centre in England for developing offstage and backstage skills and training offers great opportunities for genuine, effective employer engagement for the FE sector. The centre will provide a chance to meet, explore, and debate how to get best value for FE from a building supporting industry expos and demonstrations, equipment testing and training.

If there are any real opportunities to be found in this development then we’re confident they’ll be picked up by our close association with South Essex College (one of our Founder Colleges) who are looking into potentially offering some of their courses at the centre once it opens in 2012 . FE will then get access to unique real-time training with some of the world’s best bands and theatre companies releasing a stream of innovation in respect of potential new work based learning models.

Where the growth of creative industries is already back to pre-recession levels of 4.5%, the biggest risk to the sector is still the gap between those who benefit and those who may get left behind. In a country where high fees will do little to encourage the diversity that is much needed in our sector, FE offers exactly the type of learners who can make the most use of some of the technical spaces which will exist in the new space. These will include a professional standard recording studio and band rehearsal room, with full AV and ITC connectivity between the spaces.

The summer will see the shell of the building, set within High House Production Park – itself a unique concept bringing together a number of creative industries – start to appear as part of the Purfleet skyline. The building is already clearly visible from the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge at the Dartford Crossing. It will be a place hard to miss.

Ensuring that our vision for an internationally acclaimed technical theatre and live music sector supporting the best stages in the world sits alongside the idea that further education remains inclusive for those who require more chances and more choices. The new high profile backstage training centre means that the mainstream media should find this unique example of FE working to ensure that training provision meets employers’ needs hard to ignore. As they say, Watch this Space!

Robert West is head of programmes at the National Skills Academy for Creative & Cultural, and a freelance writer

To read more about the backstage training centre, go to

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