Work experience in the creative industries

Dec 20, 2018

With the cultural and creative industries adding approx £92billion to the UK economy, it is hard to ignore the financial value and opportunity for employment that the creative sector brings to the country. It is also argued, ‘highly creative’ jobs are immune to the rise of automation, yet the decline of arts and creative subjects being taken up in schools is prompting concerns that this could have detrimental to the future arts industry workforce.

Furthermore, the demise of arts and cultural education in schools is more likely to affect those children and young people from low-income backgrounds – leading to many central debates around social mobility and inequality, which exists within the nation’s cultural and creative industries.

Over the last two years members of Bristol’s Cultural Education Partnership (RIO, Travelling Light Theatre, Bristol Old Vic, Bristol Museums, Bristol Plays Music, Circomedia, SS Great Britain and We the Curious) have been developing a strategic, practical and sustainable model of engaging more of the city’s young people in cultural sector work experience activity.

Work placements offer students with a broad range of skills, knowledge and sector contacts that enable them to gain a real insight and introduction into the industry. For employers, offering a work placement to students brings new insight and innovative solutions, but arranging placements and finding worthwhile projects for the young people to take part in, is often avoided as it is perceived to be a daunting task or a drain on valuable staff resources.

Cultural Sector work experience.

Drawing on the expertise of some of the leading arts and cultural organisations in the city, RIO helped devise a flexible work experience framework, which draws together the group’s skills, experience and resources. Through this initiative, organisations aim to offer cohorts of young people (as opposed to one young person), real and meaningful activities, that stretch, challenge and excite students. The week’s activity is planned well ahead of time, meaning that work experience activity is immersive and offers a true insight into the variety of roles and responsibilities available across the sector.

So far, it’s been a real success, with some organisations now offering high-quality work experience for the first time in years with others increasing the numbers of young people they engage with and accrediting the activity with Arts Award.

Organisations are able to reach out and work with new groups of young people, who get the opportunity to understand the depth and breadth of employment opportunities that exist. The activity has also created value for the host organisations too. It raises the profile possible career opportunities available within an organisation, and develop the management and leadership skills of existing staff and bring new insight into the organisation. Importantly, work placements offered by the sector act as a skills talent pipeline for arts and cultural organisations, while encouraging inclusive pathways. As a network of organisations collaborating, sharing best practice and overcoming challenges to work experience related activity has created added value and together they have been enabled to collectively create impact for young people across the city.

“We are in the second year of this initiative. It has been exciting to know that as a group of Bristol arts and cultural organisations, we have worked to create opportunities for young people in this way without any external funding. The success of this initiative is the real commitment that we have made to ensure that all young people can access cultural sector work placements and the highly collaborative partnership that we have created. We really want to challenge the perception that work experience doesn’t have to be a daunting or burdensome prospect”.

Deshni Pyndiah, Consultant, Real Ideas Organisation

Earlier in 2018, the Government published a set of careers and training guidelines for schools and colleges. These note that every school or college should appoint a careers lead by September 2018, who is responsible for the delivery of the careers programme which should meet Gatsby Benchmarks by 2020.

The world of employment is transforming at an astonishing rate and supporting young people with to navigate future fit skills and attributes such as reliance problem solving, creativity and collaboration is more important than ever. Tackling the barriers students face in accessing work placements is a small step to addressing the much wider challenge of overcoming the lack of diversity in the sector and the inequalities of accessing opportunities.

Check out our recent work below, with case studies from Bristol Old Vic, Travelling Light Theatre and Bristol Museums.

Are you working in the creative and cultural sector and interested in delivering a work experience offer? Or is your Cultural Education Partnership interested in how to embed this model across your network? Get in touch

Useful links:

Case Studies

Travelling Light Theatre

Bristol Old Vic

Bristol Museums