Connecting Creative Talent and Industry

At the halfway point of Creative Workforce for the Future, we’re delighted that all the Creative Professionals in the 2020 cohort are now on summer industry placements in companies including Aardman Animations, Open Bionics and many more, who are actively embracing inclusion and changing their work cultures with support from the programme.

About the journey of our Creative Professionals

Creative Workforce for the Future is currently supporting twelve young Creative Professionals, equipping them with tools and know-how to sustain a career whether in employment or while freelancing. Since January they’ve been embedded in one of five cultural hubs including Spike Island , Bristol Museums, Knowle West Media Centre Creative Agency Eight, Creative Youth Network and Watershed‘s Rife Magazine. Where they have developed their experience, C.V., portfolio, industry contacts, become part of a Talent Peer support network and received bespoke mentoring. We’re excited that they are now undertaking placements in a variety of roles and companies, ranging from a Digital Events Producer at Encounters, to a Digital Editor at Wildscreen, Journalist at Bristol247, Content Assistant at Crack Magazine, Designer at Bricks and Development Assistant at Aardman Animations.

Aggie Andrews, who is working as a Creative Project Supporter at Stand + Stare says:

“having this safe space with the Stand + Stare team allows me to combine my passions and creative interests; whilst exploring the ideas of the Stand and Stare team and collaborators.”.

You can read more about her experience at Stand + Stare in a blog post she wrote.

We’re pleased to have created flexible Summer placements that work within the constraints of Covid-19 and have worked hard to build relationships between our talent and industry, a life learning approach that supports the Creative Professionals to develop their skills and the SMEs to progress in their inclusion journeys.

Samantha Payne, COO at Open Bionics reflected on their placement:

“We are really enjoying working with Parys Gardener. We joined the Creative Workforce Programme because our company, Open Bionics, is always looking for new ways to celebrate differences, individuality, and greater representation. We are always looking for new ways to empower and champion people with limb differences and underrepresented voices. The programme introduced us to Parys, a young artist with a big passion for challenging the status quo and storytelling. Parys has already helped motivate the team to think about the best ways to visually tell powerful stories. Her art style is unlike anything we’ve worked with before and we’re really enjoying watching the work develop.”

About the journey of our SMEs

Participating businesses want to address the lack of diversity and inclusion in their companies and are at a wide range of stages in their journey. For example, Studio Giggle have recognised that they need to take action and have taken part in a few initiatives to try and tackle the lack of diversity in their organisation as you can read in their blog. Aardman have started a Diversity Taskforce and Inclusion working group and with a focus on screen representation and workforce and Encounters are asking how they can use their place of privilege to amplify more voices. Many of our participating SMEs have been mystified about why they seemingly don’t attract people who are Black, Asian or from other ethnic minorities or from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. This is one of the most common ‘trouble shoots’ in companies across all sectors. Previously they have tried to change recruitment tactics to no avail, all the while oblivious to the source of the issue: unconscious biases pervading company’s work cultures thereby sustaining the system as we know it and only further reinforcing the status quo bias of the creative sector.

“If you do not intentionally, deliberately and proactively include, you will unintentionally exclude.”

Joe Gerstandt

Recognising and accepting this is a hard pill to swallow, but necessary for the painful, complex and eventually rewarding journey of inclusion.

SMEs on Creative Workforce for the Future have been attending a range of inclusion training and the cohort of placement hosts have all had to attend a series of essential sessions to make sure that we are all working with the same theory and language. Creating a shared practice towards placements, including incident procedures, induction support and accountability.

Creating brilliant work placements

Through many years of trial and error, it is understood that merely running a placement programme or diversity scheme is pointless. The problem is not lack of talent, the problem is closed doors and inaccessible work cultures, whether consciously or unconsciously.

Creative Workforce for the Future is actively addressing this, carefully connecting creative businesses to Creative Professionals who are currently underrepresented in the sector, particularly people from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds and/or Black, Asian or other ethnic minority people.

We’ve put a lot of thought and hard work into the development of placements. An essential training session for businesses welcoming our cohort was Dr Mena Fombo’s ‘Creating Brilliant Work Placements’. Her key messages are: Be accountable – Keep learning – Your journey – Your responsibility. Her workshop deftly weaved in the theories from a previous workshop she delivered for us on the ‘realities behind equalities & diversity policies’, which was packed with helpful glossaries of terms, coaching tools and links to resources.

We work closely with SMEs to agree expectations around placements. As hubs with long-term engagement practices we understand the importance of good procedures and place a lot of importance on induction. How are people introduced? Is everyone in the team briefed and part of the welcome? Is their equipment ready? Are their first days well planned?

Language is everything. Introducing a new person on a placement as ‘the intern’ or ‘the placement’ instead of their name and role in the company or what they will be working on will set them up for a very different experience. This is a common mistake that risks people feeling undervalued and teams performing less cohesively but can be easily avoided with thoughtful planning and clear, company-wide, communications.

In terms of work culture, many managers believe informality to mean relaxed, whereas the reality is the opposite for people new to companies, particularly those from different backgrounds to existing staff. Informality often leads to confusion and an exposure of ‘otherness’ in chit chat and pre-amble to meetings, that can really knock confidence. Briefing the entire organisation, setting clear meeting agendas, outlining roles and responsibilities and how new recruits fit into the organisation, regular check ins, structured work plans and making sure new recruits are included in social channels from the outset, are a few things organisations can do to help set up a good placement.

Clearly there is so much more that organisations can do to create brilliant and inclusive work placements. This is just the start of an ongoing iterative process for our companies.

What next?

We’re gearing up for our Autumn placements with twelve more SMEs ready to embrace new voices. It’s interesting to see how industry is taking small steps while the existing talent out there is leaping. Let’s make sure that the creative industries in the West of England are up to the task and can offer what is needed.

The inclusion training programme will be back in September with a repeat of Mena’s sessions as well as a focus on networks, connections and class and live networking with our brilliant cohort of young Creative Professionals. We will be advertising sessions with a closer lens on recruitment and HR for the Autumn soon. Watch this space!

Interested in finding out more? Drop us an email:

Some useful, related resources:

Useful onboarding interns checklist to make a start

The difference Between Equality, Diversity and Inclusion explained

Glossary of terms for human rights equality act

Very basic 5 must do’s for writing inclusive job descriptions

Photo by S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash