UK Music Puts Rock N’ Roll Into Apprenticeships

Progress Magazine commissioned UK Music's skills chief Lorna Finlayson to write an article on her work to create 200 new apprenticeships this year.

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15.03.2013: Apprenticeships are the seedbed for a successful economy.  They provide one of the few, real opportunities for young people to acquire the skills that will equip them during their working life.

Many will use these skills to create more jobs themselves and drive the growth our industries and economy desperately needs.

After many years of allowing apprenticeship schemes to wither, the Government and business has finally woken to the realisation that unpaid interns or the son of the CEO’s golfing partner are not a valid alternative to creating a highly skilled and motivated workforce.

In the past few years, there’s been a real turnaround in the way apprenticeships are perceived.  They are no longer the last resort for the troublesome teenager, who couldn’t get his head around history at school.

Now, they are seen as a credible – even a preferred and often more useful – alternative to racking up thousands of pounds of debt to get a university degree.

However, there are still gaps in some sectors and that is a problem that needs addressing.

Here’s the numbers first:  apprenticeship starts have more than doubled in the past two years and of the 520,000 people that started a new apprenticeship last year, the biggest increases were in those aged 24- 44 years old.

But, less than 0.2% of these were employed by companies operating within the creative sector.

Part of the problem is the lack of apprentice schemes within the music, fashion, publishing, advertising and other creative industries compared with trades such as electricians and plumbing.

That’s not for a lack of demand.  Thousands of youngsters would love to work in the office that signed one of their favourite bands.  But, like most things, much of this comes down to cash and a lack of knowledge of the opportunities out there.

It is welcome that the Government is providing cash incentives to help SMEs hire apprentices.  However, more needs be done to help small music businesses overcome the barriers.  The recently launched £15 million Creative Employment Programme (a Lottery fund administered by Creative & Cultural Skills), which is aimed at increasing apprenticeship numbers and paid internships within the creative sector, will be a huge boost.

However, take up remains frustratingly low partly because 92% of the 8000 music businesses in the UK employ less than ten people.  Many are sole-traders. A lot of these guys find it hard to cover postage to send out CDs or stump up for the backstage rider.

Few, if any, have any HR role within the company, which means any help or new schemes are not easily understood or are seen by many small music SMEs as being inaccessible.

Add to that the music industry – like many other creative industries – is reliant on unpaid labour. Almost half of the respondents to UK Music’s Skills Audit in 2011 said they or their employer offered some kind of work experience placement.

UK Music wants to change this. To mark the 6th annual National Apprenticeship Week we are pledging to help create 200 new apprenticeship opportunities this year alone.

This number of new skilled workers within the creative sector could, according to a recent study by Baker Tilly, add a further £2.4million to the economy in the next ten years.

UK Music is already working with a number of new music start-ups and more established companies operating within a range of areas, including labels, digital music services, the live sector and recording studios.

We are leading a campaign to change the recruitment culture – despite the huge diversity of music the UK exports around the world, the industry remains stubbornly white (93%) and male (61%).

By encouraging the take up of apprenticeships and paid internships, we hope the emphasis on future hiring will become weighted in favour of talent and what you know, rather than who you know.

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