The Creative Society is an arts employment charity that helps young people into jobs in the creative and cultural industries.
Here is our CEO Martin Bright’s latest article for The Guardian on how the UK can create jobs through the arts. Enjoy!
I first had the idea of setting up a youth employment charity in 2008, and it all seemed so simple then. I wanted to harness the success of Britain’s creative industries to help get young people off the dole and into work. As the economy collapsed, I was inspired by the cultural projects of the Roosevelt-era that helped the early careers of a generation of American artists. I hoped that by putting young people into creative jobs, we might find the next generation of Jackson Pollocks, Saul Bellows and Orson Welleses. Give me another 10 years and I will tell you whether we have succeeded.
In a small charity like ours, it is easy to get distracted from the job you set out to do in the first place. When survival depends on chasing the next contract or donation or grant, a kind of charitable mission creep can sometimes set in. This is a particular problem for specialist welfare-to-work charities, which can end up chasing so-called outcome payments, for getting people into jobs, at the expense of their core principles. It demands a steely discipline to keep to that founding vision, but also a degree of flexibility to ensure that you are still helping people make their lives better. We specialise in getting people into jobs in theatres, arts centres and film companies, but what happens when we meet someone at a jobcentre who desperately wants to work in childcare? The answer, of course, is that we find them a job in childcare.
In these difficult times we have been forced to diversify and I am proud of our work to end the practice of unpaid internships in the arts and of setting up the first apprenticeships in MPs offices through our Parliamentary Academy scheme.
But creating jobs in the creative industries is what we are passionate about – and making those jobs available to as wide a talent pool as possible. Earlier this month we heard that we would be working on the Arts Council’s £15m Creative Employment Programme, which will put 6,500 trainees, apprentices and paid interns into work over the next two years. In collaboration with the sector skills council, Creative and Cultural Skills, we will be running the Creative Academy, a series of regional workshops and networking events for the young people involved to prepare them for working life. We hope to hold our first event in the North East in autumn, followed by the other regions over the course of the next year.
We are also delighted that the scheme has adopted our fair access principle, which commits organisations to good employment practices, including paying all interns. We advocate paying at least the national minimum wage and the living wage where possible. This is an important example of how pioneering the arts can be and, if it works, there is no reason the fair access principle couldn’t be built into all government procurement. In future, no arts organisation that employs unpaid interns should receive Arts Council money and the same should apply to all government contractors.
The Creative Employment Programme demonstrates how enlightened public-sector institutions working closely with arts organisations, charities, local councils and private-sector employers can confront a real social problem and provide new ways to tackle it.
The real test, as ever, will come with the delivery of the scheme. But if enough employers sign up, the Creative Employment Programme will provide a challenging alternative model of work creation for any future government to consider.