New research reveals skills challenges for high-end television

The high-end television production boom is causing burnout among workers working without breaks between jobs and encouraging workers to step into more senior roles too soon, according to new research.

A lack of available crew and skills gaps remain the key challenges for high-end television production in the UK.

The findings were the results of qualitative and quantitative interviews conducted for ScreenSkills High-end TV Skills Fund which invests industry contributions in skills and training for high-end TV production.

Summary of key findings:

  • A lack of availability of crew and skills gaps remain the key issues for the majority of research participants
  • The recent surge in demand is exacerbating skills issues
  • Supply of crew has not grown in line with increased production, so the industry faces a significant crew shortage
  • The major consequence of a lack of available crew is stepping up too early
  • Hikes in crew rates are said be running to levels some regard as detrimental to the industry
  • A clear hierarchy of shows within HETV has emerged, with the largest budgeted dramas more likely to be coveted by crew due to premium rates paid, the kudos of the ambition of these shows, a requirement for larger crews and the length of contracts on offer
  • It is becoming harder to find time for on-the-job training; high pressure shows provide less opportunity for job shadowing and less time for training
  • The way crews are coping with the current pressures demonstrates their resilience and ingenuity
  • Scarcity of line producers is becoming an issue as more indies set up and employ experienced line producers as heads of production
  • Crew are working more weeks in a year and taking less downtime to recharge or to up-skill
  • This is resulting in more burn-out for crew and a less skilled workforce.

Kaye Elliott, Director of High-end Television, said: “The downside to the positive production figures are the reports of burnout as people take on work while it is available, but are reluctant to take a proper break between jobs. It is also bad for productions and for the individuals concerned if a lack of enough skilled workers means people step into more senior roles before they are ready, adding pressure to the whole crew.

“Both consequences make it even more pressing that we act to increase the pool of skilled workers in the UK. Industry also need to consider how to offer more training opportunities on the job to enable crew to upskill in a supported way. The increase in the cap on industry contributions to the High-end TV Skills Fund is a positive step to help boost skills and training when it comes on line next month. But it will need to be accompanied by some collaborative thinking on best practice by the industry if we are to grow and develop the workforce the UK is famous for.”

The research, which was conducted for the High-end TV Skills Council by Profundo Consulting, is a follow-up to research into the challenges facing high-end television production carried out in 2017.

Note to editors:
ScreenSkills is the strategic skills body which administers the High-end TV Skills Fund. This fund is used to support skills and training in high-end television to ensure its long-term prosperity. 

The organisation consults with the HETV industry to ensure the HETV Skills Fund is spent where it is most needed and in areas where it will have the most positive impact. 

Key objectives for the research were to update understanding of the key issues identified by challenge to inform investment decisions.

Industry is encouraged to contribute 0.5% of UK production spend up to a cap, due to rise from £41,800 to £55,000 next month.

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