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Future Creatives Project Report 2018
Promoting work experience for local young people

Reading Future Creatives Research Methodology

The Future Creatives project used a participatory action research methodology to consult young people on the type of work experience they need and their expectations of what working in the creative industries might hold for them. 

Real Time also talked with partners in education, the voluntary sector and creative industries to explore the existing models and explore innovative ways of how work experience can be delivered. The project in particular focused on those young people who are disadvantaged in terms of access to work experience.

Young people, collectively, have never left education more highly qualified, with more years of schooling behind them and yet they are facing unprecedented struggles to succeed in the early labour market. Whether measured by the ratio of youth to adult unemployment or comparative earnings, young people are struggling to compete with older workers for economic opportunities.

Summary of findings

Reading College alone requires 390 creative work experience places a year.
Most creative industry organisations in Reading are small.
A small number of non-profit organisations offer a significant amount of the work experience places.
Young people from disadvantaged sectors face significant challenges getting work experience and require additional support throughout the placement.
National research indicates that young people who undertake at least 4 work experience placements are 84% more likely to be in work.

Why are the creative industries important to Reading?

According to the ONS (Office for National Statistics), the creative industries include:
advertising and marketing, architecture, crafts, design (graphic, fashion etc.), 
film, TV and video, radio, photography, IT, software and computer services, 
publishing, museums, galleries and libraries, music, the performing arts and
visual arts.

New research from NESTA (National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) in partnership with the Creative Industries Council, reveals creative industries across the UK are driving local and national economic growth, identifying that local economies have grown their creative industries employment by an average of 11 per cent, twice as fast as other sectors.

“Nesta’s research confirms that high entrepreneurship rates are boosting growth in creative industries like software and advertising right across the UK, not just in London and the South East.
However, it also shows that if cities can increase the number of higher growth, scale-up creative businesses, the creative industries could make a dent in the UK’s productivity problem too.
Providing the climate for such businesses to grow should be a top priority for local economic policymakers.”  

Hasan Bakhshi, Executive Director of Creative Economy and Data Analytics at Nesta.

Creative industries are driving economic growth across the UK 2018.

In Reading, in 2016, 9% of those employed worked in creative industries. The majority of people working in creative jobs across the UK are in IT, software and computer services and the same is true in Reading. However, there are also plenty of jobs in advertising and marketing, film, TV, radio, photography and architecture.
The creative industry produced a turnover of £10.4 million for businesses in Berkshire in 2016 - £1.6 million of which was generated in Reading alone.

Annie Gouk. Get Reading, 18 July 2017.



Importance of work experience for young people

Most young people educated in the state sector think that their schools prepared them poorly for adult working life. Young adults who experienced greater volume of school-mediated employer engagement feel better prepared for the adult working world. Most employer engagement was not helpful in making decisions at age 16, unless teenagers recalled 4+ activities. Most employer engagement was not helpful in applying for university, unless teenagers recalled 4+ activities. Most employer engagement was not helpful in applying for a full-time job, but participation in 3+ activities made a big difference.
Higher volumes of school-mediated employer engagement are associated with reduced incidence of NEET by up to 86%; the higher the volume of engagement, the lower the likelihood of being NEET. 

The analysis found that young people who: 

• Undertook one activity were 44% less likely compared with those who did zero activities
• Undertook two activities were 56% less likely compared with those who did zero activities 
• Undertook three activities were 85% less likely compared with those who did zero activities 
• Undertook four activities were 86% less likely compared with those who did zero activities 

Respondents recalling three or more school-mediated activities with employers between the ages of 14 and 19 were nearly twice more likely to be in education, employment or training than their comparable peers who recalled no such interactions.
Mann et al. (2017) Contemporary transitions: Young Britons reflect on life after secondary school and college.

What do young people in Reading think?

Young people from a range of situations were consulted as part of the research. This included young people from the performing arts and media courses at John Madejski Academy, Reading College, students studying ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) and young people at NTA Northumberland Training Academy (part of Cranberry College Pupil Referral Unit). Real Time set up (40 +) work experience placements in collaboration with Reading-on-Thames Festival, Activate: Reading College, Reading Between the Lines theatre company, 21 South Street and the Rising Sun Arts Centre.

Most of the young people interviewed saw work experience as having potentially positive impact on them:


“Its different from college, gives you more independence, skills you need to work when you leave….”

“Gives you an idea of what a job is…. And you might be interested in that route to a job.”

“Means getting behind the scenes to see what people don’t usually see.”


The students studying a creative subject were more likely to have a view on a future career. Most of the ESOL and PRU young people didn’t have a view on what they wanted to do for a job, and didn’t generally see work in the creative industries as a possible option.

Most of those studying a creative subject expressed a desire to work in the sector they were studying but responses included:


“I want to be an actor “

“I want to work in media”

“I’m not sure yet”

“I want to be a YouTuber full time” 
Work Placements intro

How work experience currently works in Reading
For many young people studying creative subjects work experience is mandatory. There are two routes used by Reading College. ‘WEX’ (work experience where students are placed with a company to experience how work is undertaken) and the more informal flexible experience of work ‘EXW’ where a college staff member is present at, or is monitoring all the time. This could be a visit or a few hours in the work place to find out more about what that work is like. 
Reading College alone has approximately 362 creative arts students studying art & design, foundation art, media, performing arts, music, fashion, graphic design and photography in November 2018.
222 (61%) should be on track to complete the required amount of WEX or EXW.

This is if the placements happen as planned.
99 (27%) have some hours but not enough to complete WEX/ EXW.
42 (11.6%) have no placements.

Data from Activate Learning. 
Difficulty finding placements 

This means there are substantial numbers of students requiring work experience and many creative industry organisations in Reading are small. Activate staff report that most design companies they had been in contact with in Reading employ only 2 or 3 people. This reflects a nationwide trend. 

“2/3rds of the 47000 people employed in the games industry in the UK work for organisations that employ no

more than 4 people”.
Guardian, 15 Dec 2018.

Small companies are unlikely to be able to offer many work experience places. 
Respondents to an online survey produced by Real Time cited space and cost as the two main barriers to offering work experience to young people. A small number of non profits who prioritise community engagement have used innovative methods. Reading Between the Lines, Reading Rep, Culture Mix, Real Time and others have specifically designed projects that support and importantly sustain larger numbers of work experience places. However such approaches may only to work for certain sectors of the creative industries such as performing arts.

When asked about the employers role in work experience the young people had both positive and negative responses. Relatively few appeared to understand the commitment in time and resources the host organisations were committing to them and a proportion thought that organisations benefitted in some way from their work:


“You don’t get paid really and most of the time you’re just getting coffees for people.”

“’Cos you’re not in the company really, people don’t treat you seriously.”

“Employers look for capability, drive, confidence, someone who’s not shy, eager….”

“If an employer gives 10 people work experience maybe 8 of them enjoy it and might want it for their future career.” 
Challenge for employers 

Recent changes mean that work experience has been made easier for employers to offer with a reduced administrative burden. The government provides advice on this:

Barriers young people face accessing work experience in the creative industries
Confidence levels in the young people consulted on their future career paths varied. The JMA (John Madejski Academy) group most clearly understood the types of work they might undertake. A number of young people interviewed appeared to have very high expectations of what was possible and others were very unclear of what work in the sector might involve.

The Future Creatives project undertook 2 more in depth studies with young people who face additional barriers in getting work experience.

ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) Group
In consultation with staff at Activate, Real Time set up a work experience pilot for students from the ESOL classes at Reading College. Many of the students have poor communication skills and lower than average literacy and comprehension levels in English. Many came fairly recently to the UK and from a wide range of countries in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Eastern Europe, some are refugees or asylum seekers and some have no family in the UK.
Initially I met with the whole class at the college and explained what was on offer, that they would be supporting the development of the ‘Live, Love, Dream’ arts festival at the Rising Sun Arts Centre. Weekly work experience started at the beginning of November. 12 students registered but attendance was variable, however a core group of 7 attended most sessions. Work undertaken included preparing video content and marketing for the festival, taking photographs as well as planning and undertaking interviews with festival artists. The young people also recorded content and undertook interviews at the Cultural Commissioning Symposium at Reading town hall. 

What has been clear is that cultural differences and communication challenges have meant that this was a big step for most for the students. Many also lack parental support and confidence. They were supported by staff from Reading College to attend the first session and on-going support and encouragement was crucial in ensuring the young people kept attending. Whilst some students dropped out, a core group was engaged for 2 months and has taken up the offer of doing more work experience in 2019.

NTA (Northumberland Training Academy - Cranberry College)
A work experience pilot at NTA provided insights into how work experience needs to be supported with young people facing some of the biggest challenges. Real Time ran weekly sessions in October, November and December with a small group of young people at NTA supported by staff. One particular issue given the project, with using video, was that none of the young people felt confident enough to appear on camera. To understand their views on work experience it was decided to undertake a participatory video project looking at how work experience works for them. They interviewed staff and filmed supporting content. The group storyboarded, planned questions and discussed the issues with support from Real Time and staff at NTA. Few of the students had undertaken work experience previously and would need considerable support to undertake a typical work experience offer. Attendance and time keeping for some of the young people is a major issue and confidence is also key to their involvement.

Both pilots highlighted the difficulties in providing opportunities for young people with additional needs. Both projects highlighted issues around attendance and reliability, many work experience placements would fail if the young people failed to show up. Employers would have to be very tolerant of the young people’s lack of timekeeping and commitment to ensure success. Both projects were group based but often had different people each week which didn’t help group cohesion and team working. Many of the young people lacked confidence some being very shy and there were also considerable communication issues to overcome.
There was a lack of ambition exhibited and the young people generally had low expectations of the work experience and often a lack of understanding of the benefits it might bring. It was clear that without additional support from staff and a flexible approach most of these young people would struggle with a more mainstream work experience offer. 


From analysis of the outcomes for 1,744 young British adults aged 19-24, Mann et al identified 3 key themes relating to the importance of work experience for young adults transitioning from school to work:

1. Quantity of employer engagement
2. Quality as perceived by young people
3. Equity in access

The report concluded that those with greatest need for employer engagement within education commonly received it least.

The research undertaken in Future Creatives very much also reflects these themes. While creative industries accounts for around 9% of employment in Reading many of the organisations are too small to offer substantial work experience opportunities. Reading College alone has 362 students in creative subjects for which it requires places. Many schools and other organisations supporting young people do not have the resources to support students in finding even 1 placement let alone the 3 or 4 that would make the biggest difference to the success of young people and the reduction in NEET. Steps to increase the number of places would obviously be a major step in encouraging participation in the creative industries however increase in quantity alone will not be enough to increase participation from the most excluded and challenged young people.

The quality of the placement is important particularly when supporting young people with additional needs. Structures must be in place to deal with the low confidence, communication reliability and other issues the young people face. Their low expectations and lack of awareness of the world of work contributes to low enthusiasm for undertaking placements.

If there is to be an improvement in access to overcome inequality then specific measures need to be taken with those young people most disadvantaged to overcome these barriers. Placements needs to be specifically designed for that individual, additional staff resources are needed during the placement and the employer needs to be fully aware of the challenges the young person may be facing, for instance with literacy and communication. Lack of understanding by the young people leads to low expectations but also in some instances unrealistic ideas of what the work experience might lead to. 
How should work experience be structured? 


Increase the number of overall placements in the creative industries in Reading

Bring together possible employers, those who organise placements and organisations with innovative approaches to offering placements to share knowledge and practice

Support those organisations offering placements to ensure sustainability, e.g. by finding alternative funding sources to specifically target work with disadvantaged young people

Arts Council and other funders could make grant support dependent on offering work experience 

Ensure quality of placements

More support is required for those organisations and individuals working to specifically offer placements to the most disadvantaged to ensure an individualised approach and sustainability

Ensure monitoring to evaluate effective delivery of placements and improve practice and share learning

Ensure equality

Improving equality of access will require a proactive approach targeting resources at those most disadvantaged and setting up specific projects to promote appropriate work experience in creative industries 

Offer training and support for prospective employers willing to engage with tackling inequality

Support employers in offering short open days or visits for possible placements similar to Take Over day (where young people spend a day with an organisation) as a starting point for developing bespoke individualised placements

Research possible benefits of work experience in the creative industries for disadvantaged young people who might not necessarily express a desire to work in that sector. This would provide evidence to support more resources being specifically directed to the creative industries

If the most disadvantaged are to get a foothold in the world of work, particularly in the creative industries then available work experience resources should be redirected towards initial entry level targeted engagement if those young people with the most challenges are to succeed.

Clive Robertson, Jan 2019.

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