The UK screen sector workforce is skilled and reflects the population
National Lottery funding can help make sure people from different backgrounds across the UK can access and develop careers in the sector. In doing so, it can complement the effort and investment of the wider industry to secure a pipeline of talent into industry. Funding can also help deliver skillsets that are not developed by the commercial market, but are essential if the public is to draw the greatest possible benefit from screen culture.
The UK screen sector has experienced unprecedented growth in recent years. It has generated major economic returns and created more jobs. It has also strengthened the UK’s reputation as a global hub for screen culture and content creation. The screen sector presents a huge opportunity for the UK, but it is crucial that we cultivate the workforce needed to meet its growing demand. This is particularly important for independent film and games. Increasing competition for crew is damaging the ability to build teams and create distinctive new UK work in these sectors. It is also essential that skills and training programmes recruit and develop people from the widest possible range of backgrounds, and from all parts of the UK. This is critical if we are to maintain equity, creative vitality, and recruit as many people as we need.
In light of the significant challenges facing the sector, in 2021 the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) called on the BFI to undertake a skills review, focusing on scripted film and high-end television physical production. This report captured the key skills challenges facing production, highlights existing approaches and initiatives that could be expanded or learned from, and sets out recommended actions to help inform a future strategy. This objective has been developed in reference to the BFI Skills Review.
Both the BFI Skills Review and many of those we consulted as part of the strategy development process identified that doing so in a sustainable fashion involves support for training and development throughout people’s careers. It is important to recruit people into entry-level roles, but it is also important to help them progress. We need to make sure people can advance into mid-level positions and upwards. We also need to help those returning to work in the sector after stints away. This helps them to build the experience and insight that is essential if the sector is to continue to operate.
The BFI Skills Review and strategy consultees also identified that employers should provide safe, inclusive and flexible workplaces. This helps support people to develop their careers. It also helps retain workers and allows them to put their expertise to use. This is particularly important in a sector which is highly freelance, intense and has irregular working hours.
Developing a supportive culture is important not only in order to deliver the number of workers required by the sector. It will also help redress national and regional imbalances and help make sure every area of the UK benefits from the sector’s continued success. Recruiting people from every background, at all ages, and in every part of the UK will also help make sure new screen works are diverse and of the highest quality. It will allow us to draw on the widest possible range of skills, experiences and perspectives.
The BFI Skills Review demonstrates that the sheer scale of demand for skilled crew means that the majority of skills and training work must be delivered by industry. However, our funding does have a role to play. It can help provide equal access to careers advice and guidance, skills and training, and career-long support. This is particularly true for people that face increased barriers to access given their location in the UK and/or their background.
There are some roles and skills that are essential to fostering a rich screen culture which cannot be supplied by the market. This includes in areas such as heritage skills, as well as independent distribution, exhibition and programming. National Lottery funding can play a role in these areas, helping ensure the sector has the workforce it needs to deliver public benefit and engage people across the UK with screen culture.
The BFI will need to work in close partnership with a whole range of people and organisations to deliver this objective. This includes (but is not limited to) those working in above- and below-the-line roles; schools, education and training providers; talent development organisations; festivals and exhibition partners; publishers; regional and national archives and other heritage organisations; those working in programming and distribution; local government; national and regional screen agencies; and strategic funded partners. As with every area of work, we will look to deliver for people right across the UK of all ages, religions or beliefs, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, working class backgrounds, as well as disabled people, those with a longstanding physical or mental condition and those identifying as D/deaf or neurodiverse.
3.1 Equitable and more visible routes into the sector for people of all ages
The BFI Skills Review and Next Up consultees both noted that we need people from the widest range of backgrounds possible working in the sector. This is vital if it is to prove creatively and commercially sustainable. We need to make sure people everywhere are aware of the sustainable career opportunities in the sector. They also need to be supported to pursue them.
Work in this area may include helping people access useful resources and information on education, skills and careers, careers advice in schools, and support for entry-level programmes. National Lottery funding can help offer this to people of all ages – from children in school to people in later stages of life looking for a career change.
3.2 People from under-represented groups across the UK can access the support they need to develop their careers and skills
It is widely acknowledged across film, video games and television that the workforce does not reflect the UK population. National Lottery funding can help tackle barriers to access for underrepresented groups. These might be social, cultural or economic. Funding can help people access jobs and progress their careers over time.
This outcome is not only focused on recruitment of new people into entry-level roles, but on supporting people to progress into mid-level roles and beyond. Funding can help people build up valuable experience and insight and develop sustainable careers. It can help them hone a whole range of skills, from technical and digital ones to those around business development and professional leadership. This is vital if the sector is to thrive.
In addition to our support for the wider sector, we will look to ensure all work created using National Lottery funding supports skills progression and training for those from underrepresented groups.
3.3 Workforce retention is improved by building inclusive, flexible and supportive workplaces
Both Next Up and the BFI Skills Review identified that providing people with proper support, security and flexibility is essential to maintaining a UK workforce. It is also essential to address underrepresentation in the sector. This is particularly important given the high proportion of freelance roles in the industry and its intense and irregular working hours.
Any work to develop a more inclusive and supportive culture must recognise that people’s access requirements vary. Screen sector roles can be physically demanding and time intensive, which can prove disproportionately challenging for some groups. It is important that steps are taken to support people with a wide variety of access needs to build inclusive and sustainable careers.
This outcome supports work to enable such a culture, to create a safe working environment, and to help people manage their work/life balance. Support for such a culture will be required on all productions in receipt of National Lottery funding. Our work to support this culture will not be limited to our work through National Lottery funding. It will also be a focus of our policy and advocacy work, working with major employers. More on this is set out in our Corporate Strategy (Screen Culture 2033).
3.4 Vital skills for the sector that cannot be delivered by the commercial market are developed
There are also essential skillsets that the commercial market is not currently set up to deliver. This includes areas such as independent programming and screen heritage, where a combination of cutting-edge digital skills and highly-specialist expertise in legacy formats is required. These skills are essential is we are to connect the UK public with its moving image heritage, but many are not delivered by any commercial provider. The number of people needed for these roles is limited, but without them, there would be a huge loss of public benefit. This includes to generations of audiences from heritage collections. A lack of support may also result in a future in which the works of today cannot be collected and are unavailable to the public. It is essential we develop the technical and digital skills to make sure this does not happen.