Is the Creative Employment Programme working?

16 December 2014

It is nearly 2 years since the Creative Employment Programme, the Arts Council’s £15 million scheme designed to create fairer entry routes into the arts and culture sector, began to subsidise salaries for entry level positions in arts and cultural organisations. Is it working?

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The challenge of the intervention is to make long-lasting, large-scale change in the way arts and cultural organisations recruit and employ entry level positions. The historical context is that of a sector that has often employed ‘unpaid interns’, who were able to do this work for no money because of their own socio-economic background. This does not create fair entry routes into the work-force; in addition, a workforce from only a narrow socio-economic background will not make ‘great arts and culture.’ Diversity in all aspects of arts and culture was promoted by the McMaster Review of 2007. In 2010, the Arts Council’s ten year strategic framework set out that one of its five goals should be that, “the leadership and workforce in the arts, museums and libraries are diverse and appropriately skilled.”

This month Peter Bazalgette recently reaffirmed this commitment in what he described as one of the most important speeches that he will make as Chair of Arts Council England. “People endlessly debate the essential quality of ‘Englishness’. But if there is one thing above all others that sums up ‘Englishness’ it’s the richness of our diversity.” He outlined a commitment and a vision; Young talent, whatever its background or class will see the kind of work that convinces them that the arts belong to them - and that they have a way in. They will seek careers on the technical side; in administration; as performers; creators and, crucially, as leaders.”

Dawn Walton, Director of Eclipse Theatre, spoke on the panel discussion after Bazalgette’s speech. She noted the need to get diversity into management as well as the practice of the arts and how the CEP’s subsidy for paid internships helped in this respect.

In 2011, ACE published guidance on internships. At a meeting of arts and cultural organisations, Martin Bright, CEO of The Creative Society, described 2013 as the year in which ‘the unpaid intern’ became unacceptable for the sector. An article in the Guardian, highlights how employers are still looking for clarity over ‘volunteering’, ‘placements’ (usually linked to a formal education offer), and ‘traineeships’ as opposed to ‘unpaid labour’.

This month the London Assembly Economy Committee wrote a letter to the Mayor of London about the state of internships in the capital on recent research findings. The Committee’s letter calls on the Mayor to:

  • Develop a policy position on internships;
  • Promote good quality paid internships in London, calling for internships longer than four weeks to be paid at least the National Minimum Wage, and preferably the London Living Wage;
  • Be part of an awareness-raising campaign on the rights of interns and make clear to business the legal requirements and benefits of paying interns; and
  • Address the lack of data on internships and commission more research to understand the role of internships in London and to target further interventions.

The challenge continues...

...and yet there is evidence that progress towards fairer entry routes is being made. There are many individual success stories of young people who are thriving in paid positions, young people who may not have otherwise had this opportunity, however there are additional benefits emerging from the Creative Employment Programme:

  • In London, the National Theatre, the London Theatre Consortium and the Creative Society’s This is it! are exploring how to link up over alumni opportunities, (this was identified as a missed opportunity with the Future Jobs Fund). For example, the National Theatre will not cancel staff cards for those who have finished their apprenticeships. These are the seeds of a vision for ‘a creative job centre.’

  • A New Direction’s Create Jobs programme has established a continued presence in local job centres with strong links to both claimants and advisers. The arts and culture sector in London are able to connect to those who would not normally apply for those positions. ‘I didn’t know these jobs existed’, is a common comment from a young person. This is in the London job market where 1 in 6 new jobs are now found within the creative economy. Arts and cultural organisations benefit from access to a much wider recruitment pool.

  • The Job Centre Plus (JCP) Advisers have received training from CCSkills on the vast range of jobs in the arts sector. In the South West, the concept of what employment in the arts might look like has been expanded. ‘Aerial artist’ has been accepted as a job at JCP where previously this role may not have fitted into the right box.

  • It is the first time the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) has used examples from the Creative Industries in their guidance.

  • The Creative Employment Programme (CEP) can be used to advocate internally. For example, at the Ambassador Theatre Group, the departments of Human Resources and Creative Learning collaborate effectively in a shared approach to Apprenticeships, Internships and work-force development. Some other large organisations have made sure there is an apprentice in every internal department – not just in Creative Learning – thereby enhancing communications within the organisation.

  • Sharing an apprentice across two organisations, for example with the Roundhouse and Sadler's Wells Theatre, has resulted in a more developed connectivity and collaboration between the organisations.

  • Organisations like Cockpit Arts have identified a clear business need to take on more young people in order to diversify the culture of contemporary craft. They have created 14 new apprenticeship and internship positions across some of the micro-businesses incubated by them. This business driver should apply to any arts organisation with an audience focus.

  • The CEP has also enabled the Department of Work and Pensions to work with the arts sector at scale, and have put in place a specific referral process to help young people access the opportunities available with the support of the CEP.

  • Business secretary Vince Cable highlighted the role of the UK Creative Industries with the opening of the first National College for the Creative and Cultural Industries to be established at The Backstage Centre, High House Production Park, Thurrock. “UK creative industries generate £71 billion in revenue each year and support 1.71 million jobs.”

It is important that this growing industry attracts and is accessible to a diverse range of young people. The Arts Council recently announced that it will extend the CEP until March 2016. The programme has engaged over 830 employers across all regions of England and it has created 953 new apprenticeship opportunities and 1,164 paid internships to date.

Is it working then?

Yes, these are great ways to kick-start the careers of young people. For the arts and culture sector as a whole there are many other benefits. The CEP helps create a diverse and skilled workforce. This makes for excellent art that reflects and is relevant to the diversity of Britain; and those young people involved help create change, connectivity and collaboration in both the management and the practice of the arts and cultural sector.

For more information about AND’s Create Jobs Programme and employer forums go here.

Organisations can sign up the Fair Access Principle.