ScreenSkills responds to challenges raised at Edinburgh TV Festival

Kaye Elliott, ScreenSkills Director of High-end TV, reflects on the points raised at the Edinburgh TV Festival and how ScreenSkills is responding to industry challenges.

Image: ScreenSkills panel at Edinburgh TV Festival

This year’s Edinburgh TV Festival offered a welcome opportunity for the industry to come together in person after two years of the festival pivoting to online due to the pandemic. Over a range of great sessions we had the chance to discuss the challenges and opportunities for TV content, to reconnect with colleagues and forge new connections.

I spoke at the ScreenSkills panel discussion, The Big TV Talent Crunch, alongside representatives from Netflix, Roverdale and All3Media productions, Talent People agency and Watford and Essex. The lively discussion was keenly focused on how we authentically engage with people from all backgrounds and ensure our sector is truly representative of our nations and regions.

These are challenges I hear echoed daily from those we work with in TV, and ones that ScreenSkills’ industry-led nature allows us to tackle head-on. It’s why we launched the First Break initiative in 2019 - to de-mystify entry into the industry for those from under-represented groups and for people who may not have considered a a career in TV.

The program provides people with vital insight on what working in the industry involves through non industry jargon-led events, hands on bootcamps and paid shadowing experiences on TV productions. It highlights the huge range of roles available and, crucially, shows them how their current skills and talents could be exactly what the industry needs. It’s a perfect example of how we work hand-in-hand with industry to deliver something practical to help improve inclusion and ensure talent across the UK can access opportunities.

It’s brilliant to hear from people who’ve taken part in the programme talk about how it helped open the door to a career they didn’t think was  possible. Manchester-based Trisha Mistry, who told us how it highlighted the work available in her area:

She said: “First Break gave me the opportunity to work in Manchester where I’m from. I thought originally that I would have to move to London but there is so much in Manchester – you’re never stuck for work here”.

We’re currently running First Break opportunities hand in hand with TV productions shooting in Manchester, Cornwall, Wales and Leeds, so we’re really able to open up opportunities to the whole country and demonstrate that there’s plenty of ways to start a career in TV all across the UK.

Collective industry investment, via the ScreenSkills-managed HETV Skills Fund, enables us to focus and deliver talent retention initiatives.

In Edinburgh we also had vital discussions about how we can retain talent and support those looking to return after a career break. How do we enable those with caring responsibilities or who’ve stepped away from the HETV for a period feel connected to the industry and ensure we don’t lose this wealth of experienced talent? In the current buoyant climate for HETV it’s vital we do everything we can to retain talent and provide pathways back for our amazing skilled crews, so this ongoing discussion is vital.

Collective industry investment, via the ScreenSkills-managed HETV Skills Fund, enables us to focus and deliver talent retention initiatives. One way is we can do this is by investing in job-sharing opportunities to enable productions to offer flexibility and better work/life balance so we can hold on to talent. We are proud to have commissioned Share My Telly Job to deliver this key programme for a second year for the HETV Fund. I’m delighted that the programme is not only returning this year but it’s expanding to support job shares in any freelance role on a HETV show. The job share programme tackles an ongoing issue in a really pro-active and progressive way by supporting job share pairs on HETV productions all across the UK to ensure we are holding on to and supporting the return to work for our brilliant talent.

Just as importantly, how can we support industry priorities to continue to improve the workplace to ensure to is a place to feel safe, happy and fulfilled? These factors are just as important in ensuring our talented workforce are committed and motivated enough to remain in our industry. We are incredibly fortunate to share an engaged and supportive relationship with industry, helping us respond directly to these concerns. Our HETV Skills Council and industry working groups championed the creation of targeted face to face leadership and management training, which is free to every HETV contributing production to book, and covers the essentials of good people management, fostering anti-bullying and harassment and working effectively and positively as a team. I am proud that, since we launched in 2019, most HETV productions routinely sign up their teams to complete the training, which is a real testament to the industry’s collective desire to create lasting change. 

Of course, none of what we deliver would be possible without the continued commitment to collective investment in skills by Industry. We all know workforce skills challenges are not a quick fix. It is  vital that we continue to not only talk about the challenges, but that industry remain committed to seeking authentic solutions that mean we will have a strong and vibrant UK wide workforce for the long term.

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