A new year's message from ScreenSkills CEO Seetha Kumar

I hope you all had a lovely festive season and here’s wishing you all the very best for 2022. It looks like being another busy year.

We can never thank industry enough for everything that you do to support us, with training placements, time and, of course, money.

However, it is clear investment in training is outstripping demand for the skilled workforce who are a key pillar of the success of UK film, television, VFX, animation and games.

Every day you hear of productions struggling to crew up. And the pressures are only increasing, with the recent BFI Screen Business report revealing a trajectory to surpass pre-pandemic business levels with close to £5 billion production spend on film and high-end TV alone in the last 12 months.

There is a tremendous opportunity - to create more jobs, widen access, level up in the production hubs in the nations and English regions and ensure the country stays at the top of its game, creatively and commercially. ScreenSkills will continue to play our role in this and we hope to continue to collaborate with all our partners on solutions to the skills challenges the sector faces.

We have been reflecting on what has been done over the last year as we explore how to build on it.

The year 2021 saw broadcasters, streamers and indies working with us to launch the new Unscripted TV Skills Fund, designed to create a step change in training for a range of genres in unscripted. Investment in unscripted is critical to the growth of indigenous content production in the UK and in creating talent ladders. It is a vital building block for production hubs in regions and nations.

Increased investment was also agreed by the High-end TV Skills Council which introduced a two-tier cap with the more expensive productions contributing a higher amount to the training pot.

Advocacy continued on unlocking further funds for UK screen from the government’s Apprenticeship Levy. The ScreenSkills apprenticeship pilot, designed to explore how to make apprenticeships work better for the screen industries, began with 20 apprentices currently on placements with WarnerMedia and Netflix.

And more work continued on securing the skills pipeline. The major problems with shortages are currently at the mid to senior-level where we are tackling them with stepping up and progression programmes such as HETV Make a Move and Leaders of Tomorrow, Film Forward and the Series Producer Programme in unscripted.

But inspiring the next generation – and a greater diversity of talent – about the options in our sector remains critical. The Discover! Creative Careers Week was delivered online in 2021 with more than 460 schools taking part, including specific activity for students with special educational needs and disabilities.

The inaugural ScreenSkills Select Congress saw further and higher education courses endorsed under the ScreenSkills Select process brought together with industry – another key plan of ensuring we have the right people with the right skills to continue to make great film, television, animation and games. This year’s congress will have a particular focus on the mix of creative and digital skills needed to meet the demands created by technological change.

Access, diversity and inclusion are embedded in what we do. We ended the year with 138,000 people registered with us for training – half women, 16% Black, Asian or minority ethnic, nearly 9% disabled and 56% outside London and the South East. Nearly 69,000 people did some training with us last year – 18,000 if you exclude e-learning.

However, e-learning presents many opportunities, We are continuing to add to the suite of free online modules designed to help make the workforce a better, more welcoming place, including mental health awareness just launched alongside e-learning such as addressing unconscious bias. Channel 5 and the BBC have rolled out the tackling harassment and bullying e-learning while Sky has mandated ScreenSkills’ leadership and management training which should also help create behavioural change.

Where needed, we target training to answer under-representation. Film Forward is designed to match mid-level Black, Asian and minority ethnic crew with productions to the benefit of both. Courses on visual effects and post-production have run exclusively for the disabled community. We partnered with thinkBIGGER! to improve our support for disabled professionals and training providers. And we are currently recruiting for new training designed to bring hairdressers and make-up artists experienced with Black hair and make-up for people of colour into the industry – which should increase diversity in crew as well as offering better support for actors.

We are also looking to the future. More training and open days at virtual production facilities are planned, to expand knowledge and understanding of VP which has been adopted by a greater number of productions over the last year. We know that despite the pressures now, we have to plan for the needs of tomorrow.

Please get in touch if you have ideas for how we can be more effective at meeting your needs and addressing the challenges the sector faces – or if you can help in some way.

The biggest single risk to the continued growth of the UK’s screen industries are now the skills shortages, given the UK’s robust tax credits and the action that has been taken to expand the studio infrastructure.

There is much to build on by expanding and scaling up existing training where we know it works and our challenge collectively is to make sure that the work that is being done across industry is greater than the sum of its parts. Line producers, first ADs, production accountants and editors cannot be created overnight and require on-the-job experience to progress. That connection between training and real work is a vital one.

ScreenSkills trains people who make the film and television that the whole world loves. But we can only do that with your continued support. We look forward to working together this year.

Best wishes

Seetha Kumar

CEO ScreenSkills

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