A new report from ScreenSkills is recommending fundamental reform of apprenticeships for the TV and film sector following an assessment of two pilot schemes.
The purpose of the pilots was to assess whether a limited agency-based apprenticeship model was viable for the project-based nature of the film and TV production sector.
“Apprenticeships can be a powerful and effective way of building a skilled and inclusive workforce, offering a gateway for people irrespective of background or educational attainment, but currently the system is ineffective and inflexible,” commented Seetha Kumar, CEO, ScreenSkills. “What we are proposing to Government will enable the sector to unlock the true potential that the apprenticeship system could offer by better reflecting the distinctive needs of our freelance, project-based sector.”
Working with industry as well as the DCMS and the Department for Education, ScreenSkills has run two successive pilots. The first pilot ran between January 2020 to February 2023 with Netflix, Warner Bros Discovery and co-funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The second pilot started in February 2022 and will finish in January 2024. Alongside lead partner, Amazon Prime Video, ScreenSkills worked with Sky (with APX Content Ventures), Banijay, Lime Pictures And Fremantle; the pilot was co-funded by the Department for Education.
“We really wanted the pilot scheme to work and reach new talent pools thereby improving inclusion and opportunity. However, the scheme is too inflexible and too expensive, making it unattractive in comparison to hiring other new entrants,” added Bella Lambourne, HR and Operations Director, Banijay. “If the levy could be used on shorter contracts and to pay for a proportion of salary to at least fund the time spent learning or off the job this would be a game changer.”
The ScreenSkills report says there have been “some benefits” from both pilots including creating opportunities for apprenticeships from varied backgrounds, positive experiences of apprentices during on-the-job training and, in the case of the original pilot progression into the industry. “However, overall assessment has revealed fault lines in the current apprenticeship system.”
The report says both the DCMS-supported Apprenticeship Programme and the DfE Flexi-Job Apprenticeship Agency programme “were not flexible enough to provide a viable long-term training solution for apprentices in film or TV production” and the external and internal costs incurred by employers in the pilot “are unsustainable in the long-term.” with a key issue being “the resource required to identify sufficient, suitable and continuous placements to provide on-the-job training at scale due to the project-based nature of film and television.”
The pilots, says the report, have also constituted poor value for money when compared to other entry level routes in the industry and some current apprenticeship standards are an “imperfect fit for roles in film and TV production – either because the duration of the training is longer than required, or the curriculum of a generic standard does not match the reality of a production role.”
ScreenSkills is recommending an extension to the scope of the Apprenticeship Levy so that it can provide support to a broader range and diversity of vocational training options and that the levy should be made more flexible to allow money to be used to cover the additional costs that have so far been incurred by the employers. This includes paying apprenticeship wages when undertaking off-the-job training or on leave, or funding means-tested bursaries to increase the diversity of new entrants.
Additionally, the removal of the fixed minimum-length requirements for apprenticeship standards would enable them to be better aligned with the requirements of roles in film and TV production and deliver training that was both more effective and relevant.
“Apprenticeships could be part of the answer to our skills shortage, and we run the risk of letting people down if the system and levy aren’t changed,” concluded Kumar. “This report provides the Government with a series of solutions that could deliver immediate improvements and inform the longer-term changes needed that would not only benefit the screen industries but also have a positive impact on the wider UK economy and our global creative reputation.”
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