A plan has been developed to close the “growing gap” between the UK’s blue-collar workforce and skills demand.
The Secret Sector Skills Task Force, chaired by Amazon Studios’ former head of European originals Georgia Brown and supported by everyone from Netflix to the BBC, has published its report on creating a sustainable future for a skilled workforce and made several recommendations for change industry from the roots up.
The task force, originally known as the BFI Skills Taskforce, was established in response to last year’s BFI Skills Review, which identified several issues affecting the UK manufacturing sector. The report called for urgent action, including requiring the screen industry to invest 1% of all production budgets in training and the need to provide an additional £104 million ($129.5 million) and 20,000 full-time jobs over the next three years. so that the industry can sustain along with the demand for high-end designs.
Bringing together leaders from 28 organizations across the UK industry for the first time to candidly share their insights and business knowledge, the Task Force has now set out three recommended key proposals:
- Strengthening strategies and partnerships by embedding cross-industry collaboration in the long term through a new range of sector-wide skills, new approaches to data and analytics, partnerships with the education sector and a commitment to a sustainable finance model
- Building sustainable growth and career by focusing on transferable skills, job mobility, expanded pilots for flexible and inclusive working patterns and a joint strategy across physical and digital manufacturing
- The focus is on work-based learning skills development through apprenticeships, more apprenticeships that increase diversity and inclusion, more mid- and senior-career capacity-building apprenticeships, and better provision of skills development with greater support for trainers
The task force’s leading option for achieving its goals is to transform skills authority ScreenSkills, whose CEO Seetha Kumar will step down at the end of 2023. Deadline understands there is a belief that the time is right for change and it is achievable. ScreenSkills is among the 28 industry organizations involved, so it clearly shares this idea.
Following a press conference at ITV’s west London offices yesterday, ScreenSkills issued a statement saying it is “firmly committed to working towards a unified skills strategy, driven by data and insights and built on partnership as the backbone of our creative sector.
“We also know that with the wider sector, the ScreenSkills program must evolve so that we can all keep pace with the changing needs and demands of the talented workforce we were designed to support. Having worked constructively with the Task Force and its members on this report, we look forward to continuing to work together as we work towards detailed recommendations.”
The background of the report is a sector that has experienced many booms and busts in recent years, with growing global demand, including: The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Fire Season 2 moved production to British shores. However, this was hampered by many frontline workers leaving the industry during the Covid-19 pandemic and US labor strikes, as well as a lack of studio space. The recent decline in orders follows a peak in 2022 commissionings as the pandemic forced more to leave the industry.
With demand high and skills scarce, many were promoted to senior positions much faster than in previous eras, largely due to the production boom that began when streamers entered the UK and began launching services en masse. Private sources say this affected the quality of production and inflated wages, disturbing the balance in the market. In the face of all this, the UK government has set a target to grow the UK’s creative sector by £50 million ($62.1 million) by 2030.
As a result, the industry is at a crossroads. Several submissions to the government’s inquiry into British high-end television and film warned that choices must be made to protect and improve the current production investment environment or risk losing work to European and international rivals. The Task Force’s recommendations aim to provide a framework and solutions for the long term.
“The film and TV industry is a dynamic part of the UK’s creative industry and as an innovative, world-leading content production hub, there remains significant growth opportunity over the coming decade,” Brown said. “However, to achieve this growth we need a highly skilled workforce and, despite the significant commitments already made, there is still a growing gap between the increasingly strained workforce and the skills demand the industry is creating.
“To create the skilled, sustainable, diverse and inclusive workforce needed for the future, we need a radical transformation from the ground up. Our three proposals – strengthening strategy and partnership; supporting sustainable growth and sustainable careers; and putting on-the-job training at the heart of skills development – aim to move the sector beyond a reactive response to immediate challenges and the economic climate, and instead working together to find a long-term solution to the skills problem in screen sectors.”
During the briefing, Brown said his membership had revealed that a total of £100m was spent each year on skills development, but cautioned that this did not provide the “sum of the parts”.
She also noted that “the lack of data in this space is one of the biggest challenges” for the task force, but was confident that its goals were achievable.
“I feel really confident,” Brown said in response to a question from Deadline. “When we came to this, looking at the reviews that had already happened, quite often we were very reactionary as an industry: ‘There’s a problem today, so let’s stop fighting, solve it and move on, that’s the nature of production and we’re very good at it. But what comes with these great skills is sometimes a mistake because you don’t forecast and prepare for what might happen in the future.
She added that understanding led task force members to a joint decision to cooperate more closely and reject a “quick band-aid” approach in the long term. “When we talk about ensuring the mobility of skills and the adaptability of the workforce, so that when economic downturns happen, people can look for other employment or use their skills in other areas and then come back. This is extremely important and something we need to prepare for.”
The task force is due to run until March 2024 and will be tasked with supporting the implementation of its proposals, although Brown and vice-chair John McVay, chief executive of the Producers’ Covenant, were keen to emphasize that they would not call for other initiatives such as the BFI’s skills clusters, which will adopt your rules.
Taskforce members include Amazon Studios, Apple TV+, BBC, Channel 4, Disney, ITV, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount Global, Sky, Sony and Warner Bros Discovery – basically all the major players in British TV, film and streaming. Also members are industry bodies such as the British Film Commission, BFI, Directors UK, High End TV Skills Council, MPA, Production Guild of Great Britain and ScreenSkills.
Oliver Lang of Silbury Consulting, who was at today’s press conference at ITV’s London office, supported the work of the task force, while Wiggin LLP provided legal advice and Oliver & Ohlbaum conducted an independent investment study which revealed expenditure of £100m.