The arts must spread the net wider

 15 June 2015

The lack of diversity in the arts is a problem. But it’s one we’ll struggle to address as a sector unless we go beyond the normal methods and recruit from a much wider pool of talent. That’s why we’re delighted to be launching paid arts placements for 40 graduates from lower income backgrounds – and doing our bit to help build a creative nation.

"For us building a creative nation means strengthening skills and making the most of the rich talent that is out there"

The Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries Scheme will see 40 young people get into paid and well-supported roles in arts organisations spread right across the UK. Its mission is to help level playing the field so that outstanding graduates can make their way into arts careers.

At Jerwood Charitable Foundation we’ve been concerned for some time about the many barriers that skilled graduates going into the workplace have to face. In the arts in particular, unpaid internships are prevalent – in some cases they remain the only way of getting a foot in the door.

Of course, this state of affairs favours those people who are in the right networks and have appropriate financial backing. But it locks out everyone else.

Tapping into talent

It’s immensely difficult for people to get starting out. When I've interviewed candidates for bursary positions in the past, I’ve been struck by how little career advice and support they have received during their time in education.

There is amazing talent out there, but it needs to be tapped into.

Even when careers help is on offer in universities, it so often isn’t taken up by students – there’s a communication gap. So people are graduating without the right information about how to get started in creative careers.

There's also a lack of knowledge on the employers' side about how to recruit from a diverse pool of talent. From talking to employers and learning about recruitment methods, I’ve found that many think entry-level jobs just need to be posted up on Arts Jobs and that’s all you have to do. But that’s preaching to the converted – you'll only find the people who are already in the right networks.

It’s crucial to spread the net wider. There is amazing talent out there, but it needs to be tapped into – and if we don’t find it, the arts simply won't be the best they can be.

Young people are good for business

The message I always get from employers who have taken people through our bursaries in the past is that young people bring a fresh, new approach, which is of immense value.

Young people are more likely to ask questions. They look at things from different angles.

Schemes like ours, and like the Creative Employment Programme, also bolster the sector by making inroads into dealing with skills shortages.

While the arts are thriving in many ways, there are still plenty of skills gaps – especially in areas like digital and technical theatre. For us building a creative nation means strengthening skills and making the most of the rich talent that is out there.

Find out more about the Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries Scheme 


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