High-end TV Skills Fund invests £4.2 million in training and skills for HETV

Pressing skills needs in high-end television resulting from the UK production boom are to be addressed with a record £4.2 million of investment this year.

ScreenSkills High-end TV Skills Fund, supported by contributions from the high-end TV industry, is investing in skills across the board from support for new entrants to investing in established crew to progress their careers across the UK.  This includes tackling skills gaps and shortages including programmes to support in-demand roles such as accountants, location managers, production coordinators and script supervisors, and to improve leadership and management in the sector.

Working groups of leading figures from high-end television representing regions, craft and tech, production grades, producers, directors and post and VFX have chosen what training issues to address in 2019/20.

Christine Healy, Head of Production at New Pictures and Chair of the High-end TV Skills Council, says: “As an HoP, I know how critical it is that we are finding and nurturing new talent as well as helping those already in the industry to maintain or update their skills. Having the right people with the right training working for you is so important to the smooth and successful running of any production. The work of ScreenSkills is at the heart of that effort and I encourage my colleagues to pay into the Skills Fund.”

Kaye Elliott, Director of High-end Television, says: “This is the largest investment in skills and training since the establishment of the High-end TV Skills Fund, but it is a modest fraction of the £1.2 billion spent on production in the UK last year. We have to continue to professionalise our workforce and ensure they are at the top of their game if we to build on current success.”

Decisions this year include helping industry prepare for the opportunities presented by the Ofcom rule change on post-production out of London. Regional roadshows will include presentations from different post houses based in the North and South West as well as industry presentations on the opportunities available to get into the industry to meet demand.

Outreach events planned in Bristol and Leeds will also target people currently working as accountants outside the industry to promote the roles available within television. Introductory days will be followed by funding for four accountants to undergo a 14-week placement and support to transfer their skills in.

There is bespoke investment for localised training in each nation, partnering with Skills Cymru in Wales, BECTU Scotland in Scotland and Northern Ireland Screen in Northern Ireland.

Longstanding programmes Trainee Finder, a competitive new entrant work placement programme, and Make a Move, which offers financial support to enable productions to help individuals step up to a more senior role, continue. Additional Make a Move funds are also being offered in jobs and shortage grades including post-production supervisor.

All training is targeted at areas identified by industry as shortages and skills gaps and, wherever possible, takes place at times to suit busy working professionals. For example, production coordinator training is supporting 125 individuals learn the tools needed to move into coordinating, covering topics including progress reports and call sheets in special weekend training sessions.

A new shadowing programme to upskill trainees to become script supervisors for high-end TV is being piloted in partnership with the Script Supervisor Association. A series of masterclasses will teach runners, 3rd and 2nd assistant directors how to schedule and other skills needed to become a 1st AD. The fund is also supporting training at weekends to support production managers ready to step up to line producers.

Producer masterclasses will be offered to up to 15 new up-and-coming would-be producers. Funding this year is also supporting five new co-producers on placements to grow the producer pool for HETV. A producers “bible” is being written to support new producers with everything they might need to help them make the move successfully into producing - include information on the legal implications of issues such as health and safety on set, duty of care, working with children and how to make sure grades requiring qualifications have the correct ones.

In post-production and VFX, training is taking place in high dynamic range and wide colour gamut for broadcast as well as Avid. There will be events to raise awareness of new apprenticeship standards, a programme to help 10 participants return to work in post or VFX after a caring break and a repeat of the successful training in negotiating client relationships run initially in 2018, has been delivered again utilising 2019 investment.

Leadership and management was identified last year as an area of major concern. More than 200 people in roles across the sector are being offered the training this year to develop these skills including people management, recognising natural bias and understanding human resources essentials.

The fund is commissioning a series of workshops for freelancers across the UK to support individuals to manage their work including finance for freelancers, negotiating rates and how to pitch yourself.

Skills Passport, the online tool designed in 2018 to help professionals navigate short training courses, has been further improved and is now offering even more industry-endorsed courses. As part of a pan-ScreenSkills review of endorsement of short courses, it will be taking on a new name shortly. Bursaries will continue to be available for courses not commissioned and funded by the High-end TV Skills Fund but which are regarded as useful training for those working in the sector.

The High-end TV Skills Fund raised £3.3 million in contributions last year from productions including Les Misérables, Marcella, Outlander, Planet Earth, Sex Education, Silent Witness, The Virtues, Killing Eve and The Split. With many productions offering training opportunities. Trainee Finder trainees worked on productions including Victoria, War of the Worlds, Mrs Wilson, Shetland 5, Line of Duty, Fleabag 2, Deepwater and Gentleman Jack. 

Investment in 2019/20 is being boosted by the use of some reserves in order to meet skills needs in the light of the production boom.

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