The discussion was held on 27 February 2019 as part of BBC Digital Cities Manchester, produced by the BBC, sponsored by dock10 and delivered in partnership with the Creative Industries Federation. Below is a summary of the discussion.
Creative industries in the north west of the UK are thriving, and since 2010 GVA has grown by 35.6%. In Greater Manchester, 9% of jobs are now in the digital and creative industries. To build on its strengths as a world-class city-region in the digital and creative industries, Greater Manchester needs to invest in its talent pipeline to ensure industry can draw on a pool of skilled workers now and in the future.
dock10 and BBC have partnered with the national organisation for the creative industries - the Creative Industries Federation - in order to shape the exciting new narrative around Creative Industries in the region and leverage local networks and lead discussions on creative skills in Greater Manchester. These discussions have included dock10 and BBC at a national level, but given the concerns of local industry, they convened this group to ensure national advocacy and programmes are representative of the challenges - and opportunities - for Greater Manchester.
Digital & Creative Skills Shortages
Our discussion sought to identify the roles where recruitment was proving difficult. The businesses present reported that recruitment for technical or digital roles within their company was a significant challenge. Arguably, these challenges go back to school, where tech and ICT skills are becoming obsolete, stymieing the talent pipeline at an early stage. As digital jobs are a growing sector in Greater Manchester, education needs to keep up with changes and demands as jobs evolve. Greater Manchester Combined Authority are advocating for devolution around skills policy, so schools are able to respond to the needs of industry - if this does develop, creative and digital skills should be a key component in their strategy.
Creative businesses also find it difficult to recruit for roles on the operational or professional side of the business - they want candidates with a background in their relevant industry, but those that apply tend to come from professional services. Without this background, they may not understand the nuances of working in a creative company.
In the short-term, industry’s reliance on EU workers to provide tech skills could mean future gaps in the workforce, depending on changes in employment law when the UK leaves the EU. In the long-term future, portfolio careers and freelancing are already commonplace, but will become a mainstream career choice and industry will need to be prepared to flex and respond to these changes.
Although many young people are digital natives, they lack experience in industry and the resulting business skills which would make them employable. Being able to use technology is not the same as understanding commercial supply chains, intellectual property and business strategy. Industry
professionals may have a role to play in delivering masterclasses to young people, to ensure they are being taught within an industry context. However, this would be difficult to deliver at school level because businesses are not integrated within the infrastructure of extra-curricular activity.
There is an opportunity to to tell a story about areas where the region is world-class such as broadcasting, creative tech and fashion, deflecting the “London-magnet” - albeit that this has weakening pull. The city-region should promote the quality of life for people looking to start their career.
Inclusivity and Diversity
The people of Greater Manchester are its biggest asset - and the diversity of experiences within the population is a great strength, especially when it comes to its young talent. Digital and creative industries businesses tend to be customer-facing companies, so the most successful will reflect the diversity of their customer base within their own organisation. Organisations need to train staff to ensure they are a receptive environment to people from all backgrounds.
Young people need to be able to see themselves in industry figures so they can imagine themselves in those roles. For example, the BBC should not only reflect a diverse society on television, but also as role models working behind the scenes, especially when choosing speakers to go into schools or engaging with young people.
Recruitment practices could be altered to test candidates on their raw ability rather than learned skills or knowledge, which can be built upon while working. A move away from CVs could help less privileged young people, who didn’t have access to work experience or specialist courses, to get into roles. Fluid job descriptions could make certain jobs more explicitly open to different sorts of candidates.
Free bus travel around Greater Manchester through the exciting new initiative The Opportunity Pass will open up the city to 16 to 18 year olds. Led by SharpFutures to support Andy Burnham’s commitment to stimulating bus usage and patronage, the pass will help young people access education, employment, training and social opportunities in Greater Manchester. Creative industries could reach out to those from across the city-region by signing up to this programme.
Connecting the Pipeline
Every young person needs a tangible connection to the working world so they can understand the range and breadth of jobs available to them. Teachers are important figureheads to engage with, to ensure they are relaying accurate information about jobs in the creative industries, within a context creative skills are being squeezed out of the curriculum. We also need to persuade parents, so they recognise the benefit of careers in the creative industries and encourage their children to pursue this path. Other networks, like Careers Advisors and Enterprise Advisors, can support schools and students to make decisions to succeed in creative subjects, if these advisors are briefed properly. National assessment organisations like Ofsted have a role to play in encouraging schools to connect with industry - they could use this as a benchmark of success.
Industry can connect with young people through mentoring schemes. For example, the One Million Mentors programme trains and connects mentors with young people in Greater Manchester. Initiatives such as work shadowing are useful and also a light-touch option for time-poor SMEs. Other suggestions included a MediaCity “walk-in”, opening the doors of businesses in the area to young people and communities, organised in partnership with Salford City Council. Such programmes de-mystify the creative industries. But it was felt that programmes opening the doors to young people are not the only answer - industry also needs to actively seek engagement with young people.
The education offer in Greater Manchester must keep up with developments in industry, like the growing broadcast sector, which needs digital talent to fuel its growth. Higher and further education institutions also face a challenge in ensuring their courses are up to date with industry developments, especially as technology evolves at such a fast pace, creating new roles every year. Young people are brilliant at using technology, so let’s ensure we are also teaching them to utilise the core storytelling skills they develop through vlogs and blogs when they enter industry. Institutions must also help students to develop transferable skills alongside core courses.
To maximise the potential of digital creatives we must start with having the right infrastructure. Affordable and flexible space for businesses in Greater Manchester is of the utmost importance - and these spaces need to be accessible for everyone. Buildings need to be fit for purpose for the needs of digital and creative businesses, which often fluctuate in size and needs as they work on a project-by-project basis. Business champions and property developers need to take a leadership role and commit to providing this space. MediaCity UK is a prime example of this. Developers and big business made a commitment to developing infrastructure in Salford, and as a result broadcasting has grown as an industry, along with market demand.
Business support for freelancers and start ups is also vital to create the right environment. Sector support organisations are vital to ensuring early-stage businesses and freelancers are given the right tools and learn basic business skills, such as managing your cash flow. Business support schemes also should be tailored to business type, structure and need - we must recognise the support a freelancer needs is different to a micro-business. Some felt government have a role in funding such schemes, others felt industry should take the baton and pass on knowledge through peer to peer exchanges. Mentoring from established freelancers and companies could help those starting out to get to the next stage in their professional development. Community events which connect the digital and creative industries would be useful to create a network which could share knowledge and skills across sectors.
There was a concern about current standards of economic security across Greater Manchester - the recent Prosperity Report suggested this is below average in GM which may mean people have less confidence or security to go freelance. If they lack economic security, they are not able to fail - so a more traditional job could appear more attractive. A safety net for freelancers and start-ups could encourage more activity in this area.
Get involved with industry’s new Creative Careers Programme
The Creative Careers Programme offers a unique opportunity to radically increase the impact and reach of our sector’s engagement with young people, and it needs you at its heart. Through our shared mission and a coordinated approach, we can make a far bigger impact together than would be possible alone.
The Creative Careers Programme is an industry-designed and led, government-supported initiative to raise awareness of opportunities for work across the creative economy. The Creative Industries Federation, ScreenSkills and Creative & Cultural Skills, in collaboration with The Careers & Enterprise Company and Speakers for Schools, will be leading its delivery. Through the programme around 2 million young people will be able to access better advice about pursuing a creative career, and leading organisations and individuals from across the creative industries will engage with more than 160,000 school-age students by March 2020.
Your support, time and expertise are essential to the success of the programme, and there are many ways in which you can get involved.
Leading industry figures are encouraged to give their time by delivering inspiring assembly talks through Speakers for Schools
Provide work experience placements to young people who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity with the help of S4SNextGen
Offer industry insight and advice to a local school by becoming an Enterprise Adviser.
Open up your doors as part of a new national week in which hundreds of employers host young people.
Partner with us to deliver a series of immersive events with young people.
Ensure that your organisation’s engagement with young people is spotlighted and shared by updating us with the work that you are already doing to help young people learn more about our sector and the kind of work that they could go in to.
The Creative Industries Federation has been working with the BBC Academy as part of their Digital Cities Initiative. It’s a major nationwide project which delivers a week of training, conferences and development workshops in major cities across the UK working with multiple partners, including the Creative Industries Federation, Digital Cities reaches thousands of creative professionals and new entrants each year. Find out more here.