Collage Works programmes to diversify employment in the creative sector hit by the pandemic

An evaluation of a training program that set out to diversify the creative industries and work with employers to find new talent has seen the COVID-19 pandemic wipe out many of the gains that had been made.

Over 200 young people from diverse backgrounds, supported by Collage Arts and Bauer Media, accessed high-quality work-based training. The programme This is Me – Creative London (TIS), also known as Creating Something For Young Londoners in Collage Works communications, and aimed to support individuals to progress in their chosen fields, whilst simultaneously work to address systemic under-representation in the creative media sector.  The programme was realised by the philanthropic investment of JP Morgan Chase Foundation.

This is me was really successful in moving young people into work in the creative media sector,” explains Toby Fernandes, Head of Collage Works.  “We attracted many trainees who faced multiple barriers resulting from gender, poverty, class and race. Typically, they were underemployed despite having already attained degrees, often in their chosen field.”

There were key factors that contributed to the ability of the participants to make progress. The participants cited factors including:

>> The quality of the trainers

>> The relevance of the material

>> The importance of having input from people currently working in the creative industries

>> The opportunity to develop networks with peers and industry professional

“The participants on TIS talked about feeling empowered and more confident to pursue their careers. They widened the scope of work they were prepared to consider, they saw how this could help them develop experience and their portfolio careers.

Employers were impressed by the participants they met. We are now talking to more employers looking to diversify the creative sector as a route to inclusive and profitability in more markets and more domains. However,  recent evaluation report found that the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on those in the early stages of their careers.  This was compounded by the fact that these career starters often combine creative freelancing with jobs in the service sector, which was also devastated by the pandemic. This has implications for the efforts to diversify the creative sector.”

Toby Fernandes concludes:

“The training helped build confidence and validate skills of people who had been battling to get ahead. They left the training feeling confident because their skills had been validated and they felt like they belonged to the industry. Working with industry figures on live briefs had also boosted their confidence. They gained considerable ‘hands-on’ experience, got to workshop and talk to about on their CVs, interview techniques and commercial awareness.

All of this is a firm foundation for the trainees. From what they are telling us, many of these young people may well need additional support to get working again. The employment market is likely to be very challenging. So, we need push harder than ever to press home how building diverse teams will build a creative sector fit for the future, not the past.”

Case studies

Case Study 1

Case Study 2

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