Creative industries sector faces talent and diversity challenges to ensure future success

A team of young colleagues working on a graphic design project © Pattanaphong Khuankaew/Dreamstime

New research from the Work Foundation as part of the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC) has identified nine pressing skills and diversity challenges facing the creative industries.

The Work Foundation’s PEC team identified current and anticipated gaps in skills and knowledge, seeking to shape a shared and dynamic research agenda for the way forward.

The research, published in the report Skills, talent & diversity in the creative industries, found, among other tests facing the sector, that not all parts of the UK benefit from the growth opportunities of the creative industries, and that parts of the sector are failing to make use of the diverse talent that exists in the UK.

The authors also highlighted a lack of investment in training and development for those in the sector, and issues around creative education, leading to potential future skills shortages.

The PEC, which is led by Nesta and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, works to support the growth of the UK’s creative industries through the production of independent and authoritative evidence and policy advice.

A nine-month process considered more than 300 sources and engaged with 80 individual stakeholders from 50 different organisations from across the creative industries.

Their research suggests that while the outlook for the creative industries sector is bright, a number of pressing challenges relating to talent and diversity threaten to undermine future success if unaddressed.

These include skills shortages in some areas and oversupply in others; health and well-being issues tied to low-paid and precarious work; the need to better understand the effects of technology on future roles and other megatrends on employment; concerns that opportunities in the sector are ‘out of reach’ for many and that the profile of the workforce is dramatically different to the UK population; and worries around the devaluation of creative education in schools through to higher education.

Report co-author Heather Carey, Deputy Director of the Work Foundation, said: “We have identified nine key skills and diversity challenges for the sector, some relating to the nature of work and working practices, others to the way creativity and creative skills are developed and valued.

“Some of the challenges are more immediate, others represent longer-term deep-rooted issues, and many are so significant, broad-reaching and complex that their resolution will call for more collaborative solutions than a single course of action.”

Some of the challenges raised by the report are distinct to particular areas of the creative sector, or have a picture that varies across the UK nations where policy has been devolved, in areas such as education. Others are common across creative industries.

“Our research has sought to acknowledge these differences, while also developing a coherent and compelling narrative to help shape better policy and practice relating to skills, talent and diversity in the creative industries,” added report co-author Rebecca Florisson, Policy Advisor at the Work Foundation.

The project found there is already a vast array of research and analysis on the areas of concern from academia and the wider research community. This sits alongside insights and evidence compiled by wider stakeholders in the arts, culture and creative industries, including sub-sector and occupational trade bodies, Government in each of the devolved nations and others.

It also, however, identifies areas where there are gaps in evidence, where the PEC can enhance insight and understanding of the issues.

The report has been used to shape the forward research programme for the PEC, including immediate research priorities and an ongoing programme of insight.

This includes: the establishment of a UK sector skills monitor to identify pressing employment issues and track progress in addressing skills and diversity challenges; targeted Future Foresight reviews to assess the implications of changes in the workplaces and skills needs; sub-sector and occupational skills reviews to explore evolving careers and skills in specific sectors and different parts of the UK; and a series of policy reviews to inform the development of new policies and programmes and assess what works.

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