Pilot project creates 89 jobs in fast growing creative sector

Kathryn McShane and Jane Semple, two of the young people who benefitted from the programme with paid internships with Stendhal Festival, are pictured with festival organisers Ross Parkhill and John Cartwright, and Sara Graham, nations director from Creative & Cultural Skills

AN unique pilot employment scheme created by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland has supported 89 new entry level jobs in the creative industries, a sector which in the UK is growing at three times the rate of the wider economy and generate nearly £85 billion a year.

They have all completed the NI Creative Employment Programme (CEP), which offered a range of paid internships and apprenticeships for young people aged 16-24.

Many have have since gone on to be permanently placed in roles such as technical theatre apprentices, wardrobe co-ordinators, community artists, festival assistants, music rights administrators and marketing assistants.

National Lottery funding £275,000 was matched by industry with a further £500,000 in wages, and participating employers on the programme came from across Northern Ireland and ranged from established arts venues to micro-businesses.

Sara Graham, nations director at Creative & Cultural Skills, said: “The programme has been highly successful because it addresses two key challenges in the creative industries - firstly helping young people in getting that all-important ’first job’ to build experience, and also encouraging creative businesses, the majority of which employ less than five people, to take the financial risk of creating a new role.

“In providing funding to contribute to wage costs for new entry-level roles, CEP tackled these challenges head-on, and the economics of this programme stacked up.”

She added: “The funding brought investment from employers both in wages and training. Employers were asked to recruit based on potential rather than on experience.

"They recognised their role in training and giving young people their first break. In return, employers got enthusiastic new members of staff, bringing fresh ideas and energy to their business.”

Kathryn McShane, one of the programme participants, worked as a paid intern with Stendhal Festival and has now secured further work as a project co-ordinator with the festival.

She said: “The internship was a fantastic opportunity for learning skills within a professional setting as well as developing my existing knowledge.

"For emerging artists and creatives it can be very difficult to secure paid employment within the arts and the internship has given me the opportunity to further develop my professional practice without having to seek income from other sources."

Despite the creative industries being such a key contributor to the UK economy, employment for young people at the start of their careers still remains challenging because many of the roles are freelance and typically not ‘traditional jobs’ that education bodies and careers’ advisers recognise.

NI Arts Council chief executive Roisin McDonough said: “This programme has highlighted the importance of paid employment opportunities for young people who want to develop a career in the creative industries.

"Thanks to the support we have received from the sector, we've exceeded our original ambition to create 80 jobs across a range of specialist areas.”

The success of the programme will be celebrated on December 7 at the annual NI Creative & Cultural Skills Awards.

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