I am in a privileged position, I identify as a creative and also a teacher. I get to experience future creatives at the very start of their journeys. I also get to work with many different creatives, from teaching colleagues, to external partners, to my own clients. As such I witness the journey of the expectations, assumptions and realisations from parents to practitioners. Most students entering college are quite passive. They definitely know what they do not want to do, yet they only kind of know what they do want to do, which is okay. That is why we have education and training opportunities; to explore, to test, to practice.
The government has a work experience initiative, meaning that all students within post compulsory education (further education) are required to undertake a number of work experience hours. Part of their study programme is to identify, apply and participate in a placement, with a minimum of between 100 and 350 hours, depending on the institution. Tack on institutional safeguarding policies and requirements of relevant insurances, then opportunities start to become limited. For example, a media production company working out of a home office is considered a risk to the students and deemed an unsuitable placement. In a 2016 the Department for Culture, Media and Sport reported that nearly 90% of businesses in the creative industries consisting of less then ten employees.
Along side this, what we are seeing now is an influx of requests for students to not just participate in, but to solely run projects. Often with expectation to work at the speed, pace and demand of a paying client. Except, the client is not paying. There is an argument that this is in fact taking away paid jobs from creative professionals. Although there is another side to the argument that says even though there is not a monetary investment, there is an investment in skills. By providing this young person, this future creative, with the opportunity and experience for their CV or portfolio.
Along side this is that these types of initiatives can lend themselves to ignore deep routed social inequalities. If a student is from a poorer background then the ability to access transportation can be a limitation. Or, if they have to work a part-time job or be a carer, then perhaps this again is not as accessible for them. Also, if the students have to find their own placement would that be easier for a young white woman than a young asian man or someone with a disability?
I acknowledge that students need to develop skills to work in industry, but is throwing them in at the deep end to a client demanding a professional final outcome an adequate way of preparing them? This is a double edged sword; paying for the creative industries vs gaining experience. I can see value to both arguments. Clients expectations need to be managed regarding the range in level of input and understanding the young person may or may not have or be able to give. Students would need to be able to see, for themselves, what they are gaining from when undertaking opportunities.
If you are not blessed with endless determination or unwavering relentlessness, changing your attitudes and behaviours is something that has to be worked on, often over a long period of time, often little by little. This is something that personally I work on every day, always having something to develop, fix or achieve. Having someone to help you along the way is something I would say is essential, I have always had a mentor, a critical friend; someone who will call me out, tell me I am wrong, send me in the right direction. Not to tell me how to do something, but to show me how to find the solution myself. Mentoring demands an individual with knowledge and a level of experience which can be focused and supportive. A professional relationship has to be forged and developed. There is dedicated time and defined roles that are more likely to have been agreed to. What is important to consider, is that the mentor as well as the mentee gains from this arrangement and not by just receiving an end product.
As previously mentioned, I meet with a range of people from the creative industries and industries that use the services of the creative industries. Very often the topic arises of what the expectations of younger people who want to enter into the creative industries are. In summation, they are not looking for a finished article, but are looking for a certain attitude. If someone can present themselves in a way that shows off an attitude that means they will take on any problem, tackle any challenge, work just as effectively collaboratively as individually and will act accountable and then can demonstrate that they have some knowledge of the subject, then they would be demonstrating the right things.
If you are a creative, consider how you can help the next generation, can you mentor a young person? Can you facilitate a placement? If you are a student, of any age, think about what you can do...what is around you? Who can you seek out to get support? And remember, success in the creative industries can take many a form. Personal success is only something you can define and know when you have achieved.