Do you know what you’re missing?

Posted on 21st October 2015 by Belfast Media Festival

Do you know what you’re missing?

If you look at the Creative Skillset logo, you’ll see our strapline – ‘Developing World Class Talent’ – and the theme of this year’s Belfast Media Festival is – ‘The World is our Business’.

So be in no doubt, the Festival and Creative Skillset both aim to play key roles in helping to create and maintain a globally-effective Creative Media Industries sector in Northern Ireland; a sector which thrives on, rather than avoids, international competition; a sector which boasts of excellence in creativity and delivery and of the highest-levels of skills throughout its workforce.

We need driven, ambitious entrepreneurs; we need top-class executive, series and line producers; creative, multi-skilled editors, assistant producers and researchers; insightful and confident production executives and managers; and talented practitioners across a really wide range of craft and technical skills including camera, sound, post-production, vfx, animation and gaming, costume, make-up, prosthetics, set design and construction.

I’m deliberately putting the emphasis on the quality and skills of our people. Of course we can boast about the great locations and first-class studios we have in Northern Ireland, but infrastructure is also about the excellence of the workforce, the ambitions of our local companies; in other words, it’s all about the breadth and depth and creative abilities of the talented people we all must help to develop and thrive in order to seize the opportunities on offer in national and international markets.

But are we doing enough? Are we taking the right initiatives to identify not only the skills we need today, but also those that we’ll need in the future? What more might we do to ensure that our workforce continues to evolve in a rich and diverse manner and that we will always be respected and creatively competitive in global markets?

Earlier this year, Creative Skillset published its latest survey of the UK’s Creative Media Industries workforce; a significant number of Northern Ireland-based companies and individuals took part and it produced some really interesting headlines; for example:

  • 74% of our workforce here is educated to degree level (UK – 78%)
  • 41% have a post-graduate qualification (UK – 28%)
  • 66% have undertaken unpaid work experience (UK – 77%)
  • 63% reported encountering barriers to training (UK – 61%), but
  • 64% had received training in the previous 12 months (UK – 51%)
  • 37% are women (UK – 36%)
  • 1.8% BAME representation (UK – 7.4%)
  • 5% LGBT representation (UK – 7%).

All our research shows that the Creative Media Industries thrive if the workforce is properly representative of society, if employers promote true equality and embrace and encourage a workforce that is culturally diverse. Obviously, work needs to be done in Northern Ireland, as well as in the rest of the UK, with regard to the whole question of Diversity and two sessions in this year’s Festival aim to highlight the issues and seek possible ways forward for employers and potential female, BAME and LBGT employees:

  • Friday 6th at 2.15pm: “Meet Women Who Network”, and
  • Friday 6th at 3.30pm: “Is it OK to Say…..?”

But another statistic from the list above also draws my attention, i.e. the level of recruitment into our sector at graduate and post-graduate level. I can’t help feeling that we’re missing a trick here!

What about all those creative, talented young people – say, 18 to 21 year-olds – who, for one reason or another, aren’t planning to go into third-level education? Are we letting them slip through our fingers? I think we are!

Did you know that in Northern Ireland there are no Apprenticeship programmes in our Creative Media sector?

Creative Skillset has created the frameworks, the Department of Employment & Learning has approved them and offered them to industry – but no employer in Northern Ireland has taken them up. My guess is that most employers here don’t know about the frameworks and have never even considered the possibility of engaging with a formal Apprenticeship scheme.

So the question of Apprenticeships will feature in another session in this year’s Festival:

Thursday 5th at 4pm: “How to Get into TV”.

If you’re an employer who recognises that the future success of your company depends on attracting talented, creative employees; or if you’re thinking of how you might find a way into our glorious, confusing, often chaotic, challenging but always exciting, creative sector – then this year’s Belfast Media Festival is for you.

Ian Kennedy
Head of Stakeholder Partnerships, Northern Ireland
Creative Skillset.

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