Building a creative workforce through youth employment

The Creative Employment Programme helped Rotherham Creative build capacity in the local creative sector, giving young people much needed employment opportunities. The initiative is linked to the development of Rotherham’s Music Education Hub and wider arts activities for young people.

The Creative Employment Programme helped Rotherham grow its local arts workforce, which was nearly 50 per cent lower than surrounding areas.
The Creative Employment Programme helped Rotherham grow its local arts workforce, which was nearly 50 per cent lower than surrounding areas.

The ‘Rotherham Creative’ consortium is comprised of 12 employers with links to Rotherham Music Education Hub and Rotherham’s Children’s Festival.  

Youth unemployment in Rotherham

Rotherham lies within South Yorkshire, alongside the boroughs of Barnsley, Doncaster and Sheffield.

The national trend of high youth unemployment is compounded in these former steel and coal communities where high levels of economic and social deprivation result in fewer opportunities to access employment – particularly for young people.

The CEP could help us improve the chances of young people seeking employment in the creative sectors.

The Creative Employment Programme (CEP) gave Rotherham the opportunity to grow its local arts workforce, which is nearly 50 per cent lower than in surrounding areas.

It did this by building on a long-standing partnership between Rotherham College of Arts and Technology (RCAT) and Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council (RMBC).

Improving creative employment 

Hazel Jones, Curriculum Advisor at Rotherham Council, who has helped to facilitate the programme, said:

“We were convinced that the CEP could help us to improve the chances of young people seeking employment in the creative sectors.  

"RCAT has the capacity to provide high-quality training because of their outstanding Faculty of Performing Arts, and the CEP funding could help small employers to take on more young and vibrant workers.”

Building up the consortium

Rotherham Music Service became the lead organisation for the consortium, bringing on board 12 partner employers covering a wide range arts including:

  • Get Sorted Music Academy
  • Transmitta
  • Open Minds Theatre Company
  • Rotherham Civic Theatre
  • Gallery Town; Wath Music Festival
  • Montgomery Hall
  • Rotherham Open Art Renaissance.

None of the employers had previous experience of employing apprentices or interns, so from the start the consortium approach was collaborative and supportive.

Our employers could not have afforded the overall cost of taking on additional employees.

A variety of approaches to the management of the funding and mechanisms for the employment of the workers were considered. This enabled the consortium to make sure that the smaller employers could benefit from the programme and that the apprentices and interns could access the job roles that they were best suited to.

Applying to the Creative Employment Programme

With the jobs confirmed, Rotherham Creative consortium applied to the CEP and was awarded £49,500 in September 2013 to support the employment of ten apprentices and 12 interns.

The partners believe that this extra support was critical in persuading employers to get involved in the initiative.

Martyn Howells (RCAT): “The CEP provided much needed financial subsidy, but the support of a consortium has been just as important. There has been help to access additional grants (Apprenticeship Age Grant; Youth Contract Wage Incentive) and opportunities to discuss the challenges involved in taking on young workers.

"Our employers could not have afforded the overall cost of taking on additional employees, but with the grants that have been available and the possibility of sharing employees this has become a reality."

Building clear pathways into work

One of the key aims of the Rotherham Creative consortium was to work with local partners to build a clear and structured pathway into the creative and cultural sector for young people.

Before the apprentices were employed by the consortium partners, they went through the CEP’s national traineeship programme (delivered by Cape UK) to prepare them for work in the creative industries.

The interns also received pre-employment training, undertaking a sector-based work academy before embarking on the main part of their internship. 

There has been help to access additional grants and opportunities to discuss the challenges involved in taking on young workers.

This enabled the young people to access initial training, develop basic skills, visit different employers and sample job roles. Both the employers and the young people got to know each other before a more formal recruitment process was started.

Contrary to expectations, there was difficulty in recruiting young people – even though the group had excellent links with schools, Connexions and Job Centre Plus.

As a result, the consortium decided to split the total number of opportunities into two cohorts.

Adding capacity and improving representation

The employers have seen both expected and unexpected benefits from being part of a CEP consortium: 

Simon Mansfield, Rotherham Music Service:

“Not only have the interns and apprentices been able to add capacity to the organisations involved, in general terms, in one or two cases they have enabled employers to introduce new roles. 

"For example, within Rotherham Music Service the intern has spent part of his time as curator of musical instruments. 

"Another of our interns has joined the Governance Board of the Rotherham Music Education Hub; we needed to ensure that we had improved representation and understanding of young people and so the programme has helped.

It’s given me real insight, a proper taste of this business and something to look forward to. 

"Overall, we have been very impressed with the enthusiasm of our apprentices and interns and feel sure that their experiences on the programme will help them in their pathway towards a fulfilling career.

Martyn Howells, RCAT:

"The involvement of Arts Council England, Creative & Cultural Skills and Cape UK has added valuable support during a process that has, at times, been complicated and bureaucratic. 

Simon Mansfield, Rotherham Music Hub:

"The Creative Employment Programme has definitely helped in the development of our Music Education Hub – so much so that we are now in the process of sharing our ideas with neighbouring Hubs in Barnsley, Doncaster and Sheffield.”

Views of the apprentices and interns

Curtis Hartley, intern at Gallery Town:

"All I can say about the experience so far is that it has been fantastic.

"An in-depth and hands-on insight into the creative industries that has only further inspired me to become a part of them myself."

Liam Anderson, apprentice at Transmitta:

 "The experience on the programme has been good, from the pre-apprenticeship programme to then working with Transmitta. 

"It’s given me real insight and a proper taste of this business and it has given me something to look forward to. Now I’ve decided to stay on this pathway as an AV technician and just get better and work up the ranks."

John Wallis, intern at Rotherham Music Service/Get Sorted Music Academy:

"I've really enjoyed the work I've been doing, especially the teaching side of things, and I’ve found it all to be very interesting and demanding. 

"My plan for the future is to attend Huddersfield University to complete a degree in music there. I am also hoping to continue working at Get Sorted in evenings teaching drums."

Details of grant awarded

  • Funding award: £49,500
  • Size of company: 12 organisations
  • Location: Rotherham
  • Art form: music, theatre, visual arts, literature.

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