From traditional trades to creative careers

,  2 February 2015

How can young people apply traditional trade skills to the creative industries? We've been working with our education partners and industry practitioners to help students find out through a series of workshops. See how it went in this short video.

Sara Graham, Head of Skills Academy, Northern Ireland

"The purpose of the Traditional Trades Creative Futures project is to inspire young people learning a traditional trade about career opportunities in the creative and cultural sector.

"The creative industries are continuing to grow, so there are job opportunities, particularly in backstage roles, theatre, music and live events. All of these industries require traditional skills such as joinery, electrics, plastering, painting, hair and makeup, and often young people aren’t aware that they can take these skills and use them outside of their traditional sector.

It’s really important at this age that we show what opportunities are out there so they can decide what's for them.

"With this project we worked directly with staff and students from two colleges, North West Regional College and Belfast Metropolitan College.

"The first part of the project was to provide an insight into careers available within the creative industries through workshops with creative industry professionals in areas such as set design, prop making, lighting and makeup.

"The second part of the project was to get construction students working with an industry specialist to build the set for their college's own theatre production, giving them practical experience of applying their construction skills in a theatre context."

John Comisky, professional set designer

"In my own workshop what I tried to do was talk to them a bit about projects that I’ve been involved in and show them examples of different kinds of construction that are used in the industry.

"I think the main benefit for the students today is just to open their eyes on the real world that they maybe think of as being remote and fanciful. It’s not: it’s a very real industry, it’s right on their doorsteps, it pays well and it has real careers possibilities for them.

"I was making the point to them that a careers teacher is not going to be able to explain what everyone does on the credit list of a film.

"But if you just look at the three minutes of credits that go up, every single one of those is a real job and somebody started out just like them. And there they are now with a highly valued skill that they have evolved over a period of some years."

Nuala Campbell, professional makeup artist

"I was approached by Creative & Cultural Skills about running and commissioning workshops which would inspire young people, who are maybe in more traditional training courses like beauty and hair, to open their minds to see that they can have a permanent job working in the arts in Northern Ireland.

"They got short taster workshops into both special effects and film makeup, so we spent a couple of hours ageing each other up and they got to make each other into 90-year-old grannies. Then they had the opportunity to try out different wound effects and play with blood and guts and all sorts of lovely things.

"If you take out of the equation ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Dracula’, there’s still a career in Northern Ireland as a makeup artist that’s not all TV and film. We have a big arts industry and an arts community here now too. That’s a career in itself."

Jo Maund, professional prop artist

"Today we’ve been working with young guys and they’ve taken on a course where they’re learning to move into the trade, so joinery and carpentry, that type of thing. What I’ve been trying to do is give an insight into the world of props involved with theatre, film and television.

 These industries require traditional skills such as joinery, electrics, plastering, painting, hair and makeup.

"So trying to open their minds to the possibilities that are out there, and where they can use their skills, develop their skills and discover new ones.

"And I think it’s really important at this age that we offer them options and we can show them what opportunities are out there, so they can decide if it’s for them or not."

David Gillespie, joinery student

"We built and fitted a set for a drama group. It was good to see some experience from a different department in joinery and I didn’t really think that would be something a joiner would do.

"I thought you would have had a different qualification for that. It was good. Good experience."

Peter Ards, construction tutor

"It was quite a demanding thing we set to do in the time and the students worked very well.

The majority of students said they wouldn’t have considered a career in the creative sector before getting involved.

"It involved a lot of the skills that are on their course so it knitted in very nicely with what they were actually having to do to achieve their qualification, which was very useful.

"Plus they were able to see how the work that they were learning in the college fitted into the arts production side of things, which I think is very useful for them because they can see job opportunities.

"I think the students got a lot out of it and it was very useful in that perspective."

Sara Graham, Head of Skills Academy, Northern Ireland

"Feedback from both the students and tutors involved has been really positive.

"The majority of students who participated in the project said they wouldn’t have considered a career in the creative sector before getting involved in the workshops and the project. But now quite a number of those individuals would be very interested and hopefully some of them will go on to build a career in our sector."

About the project

Creative & Cultural Skills received funding from the Department for Culture Arts and Leisure in Northern Ireland to run the Traditional Trades Creative Futures project. The project focused on inspiring young people training in traditional trades to explore the possibility of applying their skills to the creative industries. 

Working with two of our education partners in Northern Ireland, Belfast Metropolitan College and North West Regional College, we ran a series of workshops with industry professionals. These gave the students an introduction to the real possibilities of a future career which most had never even considered an option.

The second stage of the project saw Stephen Bamford, a professional set designer, working with the construction students to build the sets for the college productions put on by the performing arts students. This gave the students practical experience of applying their construction skills in a theatrical context and the results were fantastic.

Read about the career journeys of some of the industry professionals involved: Nuala Campbell, Steve Bamford, Clive Lyttle, Brian Reilly, Oliver Quinn, Callum McCaffery.

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