What can we learn about careers advice from YouTubers?

,  19 March 2018

Madeleine Lund is the Creative & Cultural Skills Partnership Manager for London (North & East) and Essex. She considers the role careers advice can play in making sure that young creatives realise how many diverse paths are available to them.

Creative Choices workshops introduce young people to a variety of creative roles
Creative Choices workshops introduce young people to a variety of creative roles

As I write this the so called ‘Beast from the East’ has landed and we are surrounded by snow. School is closed and while I am working my five year old is happily glued to her favourite ‘YouTubers’.

If you are anything like me you will, at some point, have wondered what YouTubers actually do? From what I can see, in addition to random and seemingly pointless challenges such as ‘Eat it or Wear it’ or ‘Make edible slime in 60 seconds’, my daughter’s particular favourites also sing, dance, act and rap.

They are performers.

YouTubers often work closely with film makers, directors, writers, camera operators, make-up artists and costume makers – or sometimes they take on all these roles themselves. They need to have digital skills and know how to market themselves, fundraise and build their brand.

With that in mind I figure they are actually a great way for young people to learn about all the roles needed to create a performance, and the many different jobs available in the industry that they may never have thought of. 

Might YouTubers be a good example of how freelancers and sole traders need to have a range of skills in order to build their business?  Could this modern phenomenon be a useful tool when offering great careers advice?

Specialist careers advice is important  

When I was at school (way before YouTube was around!) our careers advice was delivered by teachers. They were seen to be ‘experts’ only because they knew what subjects we were good at. 

No consideration was given to what we might want to do or what we might dream of doing, and to my knowledge the teachers were given no specialist training in how to offer effective careers advice.

I think I wanted to do something creative and to me that meant performing because I didn’t know about anything else.

When I said I wanted to be an actor I wasn’t signposted to drama schools or acting courses. I wasn’t advised to go and get as much experience as I could in a theatre.

There was no mention of how to go about getting an agent or what else I could do to learn my craft - and Creative Apprenticeships didn’t exist then. I was told to look into teaching – I didn’t!

Looking back I don’t even know if I really wanted to be an actor.  I think I wanted to do something creative and to me that meant performing because I didn’t know about anything else. If I had known about all the other jobs that exist behind the scenes, my career path may have been very different.

A New Government Strategy

In December 2017 the government launched its new Careers strategy: Making the most of everyone’s skills and talents. In it they say they want to create “a stronger, fairer society in which people from all backgrounds can realise their potential”. They want “every person, no matter what their background is, to be able to build a rewarding career”.

To realise their plan the Government has adopted the Gatsby Charitable Foundation Career Benchmarks and has employed The Careers and Enterprise Company (CEC) to be the strategic co-ordinating function for employers, schools, colleges, funders and providers.

The CEC works in partnership with Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) across England to build and co-fund a national network of Enterprise Coordinators who are trained to work with careers leaders in schools and colleges.

This sounds great doesn’t it? It’s certainly a far cry from what I received, which can only be a good thing!

It’s imperative that our sector is properly represented in this new world of careers advice. 

However, right now we have an education system that only considers STEM subjects to be important; and the introduction of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) means that thousands of young people, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, will never get the opportunity to study any creative subjects at school.

It feels as if this is a critical time for the creative industries.

Be part of the conversation

At Creative & Cultural Skills, offering excellent quality, industry endorsed, careers advice has always been central to our mission for true diversity (in all its forms), and fair access for all into our sector.

Our Creative Choices website gets 50,000 visitors per month and our Choices live events are a huge success. But it feels like we need to do even more now; like this is a moment in time and we need to act.

It’s imperative that our sector is properly represented in this new world of careers advice.  To that end Creative & Cultural Skills has started the conversation with CEC and ensured that moving forward our new Partnership Managers will be connected with the Enterprise Co-ordinators in each region to develop this relationship further. 

We are making sure that our sector has a voice and a place in any new careers advice offer. We are making sure that our cultural partners are in on the conversation and that those young people who don’t yet know what they want to be, but know they want to be ‘creative’, can still get great advice.

It’s an exciting time…although granted not as exciting to my 5 year old as making (and eating) edible slime, or giving Stormzy a run for his money!

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