Apprenticeship pilot aims to unlock levy funds for UK screen

ScreenSkills welcomes a Government decision to back a pilot project originally developed by ScreenSkills to unlock the apprenticeship levy for the UK’s booming screen industries.

ScreenSkills CEO Seetha Kumar and Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright announce the apprenticeship pilot

Visiting the set of the new James Bond film, Jeremy Wright, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport joined ScreenSkills CEO Seetha Kumar to announce the project at Pinewood Studios, Buckinghamshire.

It responds to screen industry concerns that millions paid by film, television, visual effects (VFX) and animation companies into the Government scheme – mandatory for all with a wages bill in excess of £3 million - is currently unusable for many roles. It has been estimated that screen industry companies contribute £20 million to the apprenticeship levy pot each year and are unable to use in the region of £15 million under existing rules.

The pilot will work on the model of an apprentice training agency (ATA) where apprentices are employed by the agency and placed on multiple placements over the course of the 12-month programme.

This resolves the problem that many production companies cannot offer a 12-month apprenticeship contract – the legal minimum under apprenticeship levy rules – because of the project-based nature of film and television production where even large-scale productions employ few roles continuously for a year.

The ambition is to support around 25 apprentices during the pilot which will be designed to act as a proof of concept for a new model of how high quality apprenticeships can be delivered in the screen industries.

Seetha Kumar, ScreenSkills Chief Executive Officer, said: “We welcome the Government’s move to working with us to unlock the apprenticeship levy for the screen industries.

“The opportunity to earn while you learn has huge potential to encourage new and diverse talent to join our booming film and television sector while tackling its skills needs. The pilot will provide an opportunity to stress-test a new approach to using levy funds to deliver high-quality training. There are many details to be addressed but we all agree it is important to find a way for the apprenticeship levy to support UK screen.”

DCMS Secretary of State Jeremy Wright said: “The UK is a powerhouse for award-winning creativity enjoyed by millions globally. But our Creative Industries cannot remain the preserve of the privileged, which is why we are helping to create new opportunities to develop a more diverse workforce. 

“Our new pilot will explore ways for underrepresented groups in the screen industries to earn whilst they learn. But companies must provide opportunities for young people from all backgrounds to go as far as their talents take them in this thriving sector.”

Barbara Broccoli, producer, EON Productions said: “We are grateful to Jeremy Wright for his determination to get the levy funds our sector pays into the fund unlocked, for our largely freelance industry. The film industry is projecting severe skill shortages in the next five to 10 years and it is vital we invest in training through apprenticeships, to ensure that we have a healthy and diverse workforce in the future.”

ScreenSkills has been working with industry and Government to encourage greater flexibilities in the apprenticeship levy system. The innovative apprenticeships pilot will enable industry employers to transfer available unspent levy funds in to the scheme. DCMS is investing £100,000 towards other costs.

The aim is to make sure that employers in project-based industries are no worse off financially than those in more traditional structures while the apprentice gets the full benefits of an apprenticeship including a minimum 20% off-the-job training.

This work builds on a ScreenSkills campaign to open up the screen industries to new and diverse talent which launched at the end of May. Find Your Future in Film and TV features seven alumni of ScreenSkills training to highlight the range of jobs available behind the camera in film and television and the pathways into them.

ScreenSkills already runs Trainee Finder, a 12-month subsidised work placement programme for trainees in film, high-end TV and children’s television. This is funded by voluntary industry contributions to the ScreenSkills Skills Funds.


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