Work Foundation and ScreenSkills launch new Skills Forecasting Service which reveals recruitment difficulties

film crew in wintery conditions

A new Skills Forecasting Service, delivered by ScreenSkills and the Work Foundation, has been launched with the first findings from its Quarterly Barometer and a call-out to all employers to take part in its inaugural Employer Survey.

The first Quarterly ScreenSkills Barometer, a state-of-the-sector snapshot of current skills needs, shows less than a third of screen professionals believe the industry is investing sufficiently in skills although 86% report recruitment difficulties.

It will be complemented by the Employer Survey where the ambition is to secure input from hundreds of UK employers in the screen industries (film, high-end TV, unscripted TV, children’s TV, animation, VFX and games) to provide a comprehensive picture.

The Skills Forecasting Service, supported by National Lottery funds awarded by the BFI as part of its Future Film Skills action plan, is intended to underpin anecdotal evidence of skills shortages and expected skills needs with a solid evidence base.

This will inform future skills investment and help anticipate new skills needs such as those created by virtual reality (VR), artificial intelligence (AI) and other technological innovations.

Chairs of ScreenSkills’ industry councils urged colleagues to complete the survey which will be shared with industry in the new year.

Heather Carey, Deputy Director of the Work Foundation, said: “In the face of a tightening labour market and structural shifts in the economy driven by technological advancement, globalisation and demographic change; strategic skills planning is more crucial than ever. The ScreenSkills Forecasting Service, with its three different work strands, is truly innovative in its approach; encompassing a comprehensive programme that includes current, regularly-updated insight; detailed analysis of sectoral skills issues; and forwarding-looking research into the future of work in the screen industries.

“The inaugural Barometer results just released are a call to action to the industry to work collaboratively to address skills challenges and ensure the talent base needed to enable future success.”

Seetha Kumar, Chief Executive Officer of ScreenSkills, said: “The Barometer findings support the anecdotal concerns of skills shortages that are being raised across industry. In time, we expect these quarterly snapshots will also act as an early warning system for new problems as they emerge.

“We will also encourage the whole industry to take part in the Employer Survey so we have comprehensive evidence on skills. This will help employers plan for the future and help us to target investment where it is most needed. If we are going to tackle skills gaps and diversify the talent pool, we all need a better understanding of the state of the workforce.”

First Quarterly ScreenSkills Barometer findings

The first Barometer findings show less than a third of screen professionals believe the industry is investing sufficiently in skills although 86% report recruitment difficulties.

The Barometer, designed as a quarterly snapshot of the state of the UK’s screen industries, confirmed a buoyant business environment but highlights the pressures the current production boom is placing on the workforce in film, television, animation, VFX and games.

The sector remains confident of future growth with the majority of respondents expecting activity to continue to rise.

But limited availability of skilled workers in key areas is perceived as one of the main factors threatening further growth, alongside Brexit and any changes to exchange rates. Respondents were clear that decisive action was needed.

In film and TV, the most difficult roles to recruit for are in production (including production accountants, line producers, production and location managers). A number of technical and supervisory roles were also reported as hard to fill in VFX (supervisors, FX artists, creature FX and animators) and in games (programmers and project managers).

Skills shortages affect the sector in multiple ways including increased operating costs, lost business opportunities and missed deadlines. For more details, read the findings here.

The Barometer consists of 50 industry representatives from film, high-end TV, unscripted TV, children’s TV, games, animation and VFX – specially chosen for their understanding of the sector and to be able to inform the quarterly ‘temperature check’. They sit on a panel for up to five executive quarters.

More Barometer panellists are required for future rounds. ScreenSkills is particularly seeking input from professionals based outside London and the South East, including those working in children’s television, games and VFX.

The Employer Survey

The Employer Survey, which will open later this month, will alternate with a Workforce Survey to create an Annual ScreenSkills Assessment, corroborating national data sources.

Val Ames, Director of Production, Kindle Entertainment, and Co-chair of the Children’s Skills Council, said: “I will be filling in the survey because I recognise the importance of having the right talent in our industry and how training is key to ensuring that is the case. As co-chair of the Children’s Skills Council, I also want to have children’s television properly represented in the findings.”

Christine Healy, Head of Production, New Pictures, and Chair, High-end TV Skills Council, said: “The success of high-end television production at the moment is putting pressures on the industry and it is important to understand those pressures in some detail – and not just anecdotally - so we can do something about them and plan for the future. All companies and employers should find the time for the survey when it is released.”

Iain Smith, Chairman and MD, Applecross Productions, and Chair, Film Skills Council, said: "I would encourage all employers to fill in the ScreenSkills survey to provide as much information on skills needs as possible. Our skilled workforce has been one of the driving forces of inward investment and making sure we continue to have the workers industry needs is critical."

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