When SOLT and UK Theatre’s report on the workforce needs of theatre was published a week ago, colleagues responded by calling it ‘important’, ‘compelling reading’ and even as ‘quite something’.
You can find the headlines, and the full report, on our website here.
After working closely with Nordicity and Alistair Smith of The Stage on the research it was encouraging to see our sector respond in this way. After all, the report is clear that our culture and practices must change if we are to address skills shortages, and to see a more diverse range of people, skills and talent enter the industry to drive its future success.
SOLT and UK Theatre commissioned the research because our members have known for some time that skills gaps were developing, that diversity was an issue, and that it would be vital to understand the landscape - from entry level to leadership - to be able to do something about it.
It’s the same story across the creative industries. The film industry has very similar concerns - raised by their recent skills audit, we’ve seen Arts Council programmes - many of them involving our members, Creative Scotland have a Diversity in the Arts report due out soon, and the Creative Industries Federation have talked about issues with creative career paths.
But Nordicity and Alistair were right to point out that there is an ‘urgent and overarching need’ for the sector to come together on a concerted, sector wide effort to make real change happen.
Thanks to the involvement of members across the country, from sector bodies such as Creative and Cultural Skills, and of every individual who took part in the survey, Nordicity and Alistair have been able to produce much needed evidence.
It gives us a roadmap. We can work with government and employers, on behalf of the industry, to change training and development at every level, from the earliest stages of new careers, to the development of our sector’s leaders.
We have insight that will shape ways to bring in new voices and talent, to widen entry routes, and to see the diversity in our workforce that will improve our talent base, our relevance, and our resilience.
I’ve talked to a wide range of people who want to support us in this - through the consortium of industry employers (which will include those from the not for profit and the commercial sectors) or by contributing evidence from existing programmes, or by trialing new ways of doing things.
You can expect to hear more from us over the next few months about the consortium, the work it will take forward, and how it will be funded (including seed funding from the Theatre Development Trust - SOLT’s sister charity).
You can hear more at UK Theatre’s conferences; our Leadership Retreat on 11 July, Frontline and Off Stage on 9 and 10 October, Business Resilience on 2 November and Communications and Audiences on 23 November.
It’s clear from the response to the report that this sector wants to support the change that will see our industry continue to thrive. Together we have the commitment, knowledge and resources to make sure that in 10 years’ time we can talk about the progress we’ve made.