Skills for Surviving the Creative Sector

Freelance labour, training and skills development in Bristol’s film and television industries (Amy Genders, UWE)

Over the past decade a broader societal shift towards a so-called ‘gig economy’ has left numerous sectors becoming increasingly characterised by precarious work and diminishing employment rights. Perhaps no more is this workforce model more acutely evident than in the creative industries. In 2015 89% of all workers in the film production sector and 52% of those working in independent television production in the UK were freelance (Creative Skillset, 2016). One of the most significant challenges facing freelancers today is access to training and skill development, with barriers including high fees, inconvenient opportunities, and fear of loss of earnings/work. The proliferation of unpaid work experience and degree-level education as a means to ‘get in and get on’ in the industry has led to growing inequalities across the workforce, with women, BAME individuals, and those from less privileged socio-economic backgrounds often disproportionately affected.

With almost three quarters of freelancers within the creative media workforce reportedly experiencing barriers to training (Creative Skillset, 2014), this paper critically examines the role of higher education institutions and skills-based organisations in Bristol’s creative ecology. As the UK’s third largest agglomeration of film and television workers after London and Manchester, Bristol offers a important case study for the analysis of the opportunities and challenges facing freelancers within a regional creative cluster. Based on numerous interviews with those working within the region, the research drawn upon for his paper provides a significant insight into how freelancers negotiate the pressures of managing their own skills development to try to meet the evolving demands of a highly competitive industry.

A pipeline problem: exploring the impact of policy disconnect on craft higher education (Lauren England, King’s College London)

This paper explores a disconnect between policy and creative higher education. Focusing on how this social and political discourse has begun to shape and define the value of undergraduate craft education in England, this paper draws from creative industries literature and policy and interviews with twelve craft educators from four higher education institutions. The paper aims to highlight contradictions between policy that advocates for the creative industries as an economic growth sector whilst simultaneously devaluing creative skills and de-investing in arts education. It also presents challenges faced by craft educators linked to this policy disconnect including student recruitment, the consideration of craft as a viable educational and professional pathway, and levels of resilience, haptic skills, and creative and critical thinking among craft students today. The paper concludes with reflections on how this disconnect generates a talent pipeline problem for higher education, and recommendations for further research into the impact of de-investment in arts education on the creative economy.

This paper presents findings from an ongoing PhD project on professional development in craft higher education in partnership with Crafts Council UK.

Problems to solve: Core competencies artists must possess to survive in a portfolio economy (Jeremy Peters, University of Cambridge Judge Business School)

Artists that operate in our current economy must possess skills and assets to survive and hopefully thrive as individual economic actors within modern society. In order to give creatives the tools they need to thrive, it is important then to explore the range of strategies and actions available to those artists who either currently operate, hope to do so, or are considering a career as an artist. This paper suggests that many current academic approaches to artistic preparation are focused on solutions and preparations for problems that do not exist anymore, which limit not only the ability of artists to succeed without proper training, with wide negative cultural and economic impact. Relying on the ideas of design thinking, agency theory (self-agency), effectuation, creative awareness, bounded rationality, and strategic differentiation as constructs, this paper attempts to develop a theoretical, yet immediately applicable model of skills and behaviors, all of which are learnable, that should have tangible benefit to artists as they operate in the economy of today.  As well, the paper suggests forthcoming competencies that the author predicts will be necessary for artists to hone in on in order to differentiate and succeed in the future.

Chair: Andrew Spicer, UWE Bristol

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