A group of post houses have kicked off their apprenticeship schemes despite the coronavirus lockdown.
The apprenticeships involve accredited post-production training for Technical Operators in post houses, broadcasters and in-house facilities with the apprenticeship written by industry experts from across the sector.
On 9th April, nine apprentices from seven companies began their training provided by London South Bank University (LSBU) to become Post Production Technical Operators. The apprentices are employed by Evolutions, Deluxe 142, Visual Data Media Services, Clear Cut Pictures, Timeline TV, Fifty Fifty Post and Platform Post.
The apprenticeship will last 12 months and includes three three-week blocks of off-the job training interspersed by on-the-job work experience. Apprentices will be assessed at the end for a qualification at an equivalent level to an HNC. The creation of the apprenticeship was led by Rowan Bray, MD of Clear Cut and Neil Hatton, CEO of UK Screen Alliance, assisted by a group of leading post-production employers. The funding for the development process came via the ScreenSkills High-End TV Skills fund from contributions by high-end TV productions.
As the apprenticeship is fully accredited by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, the larger participating companies can fund the training from their own compulsory Apprenticeship Levy contributions, but the smaller companies’ trainees have made use of the UK Screen Alliance ALT scheme which facilitates transfers from large levy-payers with excess unused contributions.
Rowan Bray, MD of Clear Cut Pictures said, “It’s hugely satisfying to see the apprentices start their training after all the work our Trailblazer group of employers and the teaching team at LSBU put in to developing the course. The need to support the upskilling of our staff has long been recognised, given the complexity of modern post-production, in meeting the ambitions of film and programme-makers. We were determined not to let the pandemic get in the way.”
In response to the lockdown, industry trainer Pat Horridge and LSBU course leader Ben Mallaby have converted the course materials and lectures to be delivered online.
This cohort are existing employees being upskilled to the technical operator role. Once the apprentices have completed their first three-week block of theory training at LSBU, Bray recognises the challenge that the next part of their apprenticeship will bring in the current circumstances. “I see no reason why the apprentices will not get their on-the-job experience as their companies continue to work, albeit the work is diminishing as rushes are not being created and productions are having to furlough staff.”
As with the post-production apprenticeship, the current VFX apprenticeships are also converting to online delivery, but across the industry the almost total shutdown of filming means post & VFX companies only have a few weeks work left in the pipeline. As workers become furloughed, all recruitment is on hold and that includes future apprenticeships. The ScreenSkills scheme for production apprenticeships being run with Netflix and Warner Bros. has also had its application process paused until filming resumes.
Neil Hatton, UK Screen Alliance CEO is calling on the government to suspend the compulsory monthly Apprenticeship Levy payments made by large companies as one way of delivering much needed immediate cashflow. Hatton also wants to see a freeze on the expiry of unused levy contributions during the Covid-19 lockdown. Companies have 24 months in which to use their levy payments on apprenticeship training, otherwise it is retained by the Treasury.
Neil Hatton said:
“The post-production apprenticeship is the one bright spot at the moment but across the whole economy there’s £85 million of apprenticeship levy expiring every month and that figure will only increase with the current hold on recruitment and apprenticeship starts. We need to retain our levy contributions within our sector to address the skills shortages which will be all the more apparent on the other side of this crisis.”
Kaye Elliott, ScreenSkills Director of High-end Television, said:
“ScreenSkills is a strong supporter of apprenticeships in the sector and the High-end TV Skills Fund is delighted to have been able to support the development of this apprenticeship standard with contributions from productions. Challenges remain in making apprenticeships work across the whole sector and for all job roles. But where they can work, we continue to support and encourage employers to take them up. By enabling people to earn while they learn, it is possible to attract a greater diversity of talent into the screen industries.”
Alison May, LSBU’s Apprenticeship Manager said:
“LSBU is delighted to be launching the Post Production Technical Operator apprenticeship in partnership with UK Screen Alliance. It is a testament to all involved, that, in spite of these strange and challenging times, we are continuing to deliver innovative and exciting programmes in the Creative and Arts Industries.”