The immediate answer is unmistakeable: 2020 has been a tragedy. The profound loss of life, the cost to our economy, the detrimental impact on the wellbeing of millions. The impact has been palpable. Given this, I’m forced to ask how those hit the hardest by Covid are expected to come back from any of this, and the rest who have been tarnished by the pandemic can imagine life without its consequences.

Like so many companies, business-as-usual has not been an option for Creative & Cultural Skills; the employers we’d hoped to support, the young people we’d hoped to connect to industry, the policy we’d hoped to inform, have all been harder to do. I could be convinced that 2020 has been a write off, but, if I stop to look back, I realise that this would be a grave exaggeration.

2020 started well for us. As the pilot of the Creative Careers Programme (CCP) in England concluded with positive outcomes, Welsh Government was giving us the thumbs up to expand this initiative into Wales. CCP Cymru was created. Then, lockdown. We had to reinvent this programme and ‘go digital’, I don’t think there’s a single organisation in our sector that won’t empathise with this move.

Lockdown also hit for us just as the next phase of our Northern Ireland Creative Employment Programme was set to launch, a hiatus was forced meaning that young people now have to wait until 2021 until these new entry level job opportunities are made available. Similar delays were forced on to our Cultural Ambition programme in Wales. For us, these examples simply highlight the interconnectedness between the work we do and the cultural sector more broadly: without the sector there is no us.

Lockdown coincided with our new Head of Scotland starting. Joining a team by Zoom is tough. However, we presented ourselves to the sector in Scotland and the sector used us to inform plans for a post-Covid world. A welcome reward.

For England we thought we’d have to down tools, but no need, work on (digital) Discover! Creative Careers Week here remains well underway and still on track for delivery between the 1-5 March 2021.

Employers have still sought our support to help them establish their apprenticeship or paid internship programmes, albeit less than we would ordinarily hope to support. But we still taught hundreds of careers professionals across England and Wales about the creative industries and why our sector must be valued by and promoted to the next generation.
We’ve continued to progress the development of new apprenticeship standards in Scenic Automation; Scenic Construction; Scenic Artist; Hair, Makeup & Prosthetics; Costume Performance Technician and Archivist & Records Manager. We’re also excited about the work we’re doing with DCMS and the DfE to secure sector-specific flexibilities for apprenticeships, these flexibilities have the potential to be a game changer.

This year ends for us leading an application to Kickstart on behalf of the cultural sector, which we hope will see 1500 young people gain a paid entry level job in our sector across the UK during 2021. We’re proud to represent the cultural sector and to support it to think a little differently about who gets to join our workforce. We know the lives of these young people will be changed for the better next year.

Internally, we used the time afforded to us by lockdown to lay down a more solid path for our future: a new business plan and the appointment of a new CEO. The dawn of a new year is looking rather appealing. We look forward to seeing you then.

Message from Jane Ide, CEO Creative & Cultural Skills

Hello to CCSkills’ closest friends and supporters. In more usual times, I would have already met many of you in person (and am looking forward to doing so at the earliest opportunity) but I’m equally a fan of using digital technology and am looking forward to meeting you virtually in the very near future.

I’m very excited to have joined CCSkills. I knew before I started that it is an organisation that does great work for the sector, and we’re certainly at a moment in time when that work is going to be needed – possibly more than it ever has been before.

Although I am not professionally ‘of’ the sector, I am not unfamiliar with it. I grew up in a small pottery in Somerset, my parents were both creators, and I have a lifelong passion for seeing behind the scenes of the creative and cultural world. That passion will drive my commitment as I lead CCSkills into the next chapter of its evolution, but I am very keen to know more – much more – about the realities for the industry and what it needs from us. There is a wealth of experience within the team at CCSkills – and I am particularly keen that we listen closely to you as you share with us the issues and challenges you currently face.

I know that many organisations have been hit so hard by the pandemic that ‘survival mode’ is the prevailing way of thinking and just making it to the next quarter seems an uphill struggle.

But perversely it is right now, just when it is so hard to see ahead, that we all must be thinking about what skills the creative and cultural industries will need in order to thrive again in the future, and to ensure that we build back a sector that is fairer, more inclusive, better skilled and all the stronger for it.

CCSkills will be right beside you on that journey, offering our support, advice and expertise – and I can’t wait to get started on working with you all to make that difference.