22 January 2021
The Government has today published the long-awaited Skills Whitepaper. The Paper is important for the theatre sector’s current and future workforce. It directly mentions the creative sector and technical education and highlights that Government has heard our needs in terms of closing skills gaps and helping deliver on the Industrial Strategy.
Skills for Jobs: Lifelong Learning for Opportunity and Growth is important as it reviews and prioritises education needs in line with labour market needs. These needs should reflect the changing environment: a post-Brexit UK, more automation and advancement in technologies, alongside the need to ‘build back fairer’ in terms of diversity, equality and inclusion post COVID-19. Although it doesn’t mention the self-employed, we will raise with DCMS and the DFE that we would like to see consideration given to training routes that directly support this crucial section of our workforce.
One of the most important parts of the paper is that it recognises and discusses the need for more flexibilities in apprenticeships. UK Theatre and SOLT sit on the Creative Industries Council’s FE & HE Group, as well as its Apprenticeships and T-Levels Group. Through this group we have made the theatre sector’s workforce’s needs heard. Whether this is in terms of thinking about how T Level placements could work in the industry, or the need for greater flexibilities in apprenticeships so the sector can take on more apprentices. For example, is it possible to have shorter placements to fit in line with the way the theatre sector works – enabling more theatre businesses to get involved, especially SMEs.
Government has acknowledged this: ‘One of the barriers is the varied and flexible employment patterns that mean an apprentice and their employer are unable to commit to the minimum 12-month apprenticeship duration. We want to support apprentices and employers to make use of apprenticeships in sectors where short-term, project-based employment is the norm…’
Another item in their list of recommendations is to collect comprehensive workforce data collection. We would welcome this, especially if it reaches beyond school leavers, and collects more details on mid-career and also on freelancers for instance.