The award-winning Carrie Wootten has used the incredible impetus of her RISE campaigns to move onto a new set of projects including her popular Media Careers Podcast along with plans for a Global Broadcast Talent Manifesto, reports George Jarrett.
Wootten has two main drivers – helping to resolve the skills/talent crisis on the technical and creative sides of the industry and, coincidentally, championing diversity and inclusion.
How has the wide use of AI unbalanced the skills scene? It is already used in dubbing, subtitles, upgrading libraries, writing scripts and predictive analytics. It also threatens journalism.
“I am not sure it is going to take away all the jobs. It is the same as any new technology, but this one is going at breakneck speed. That is the big difference, but we always advance, and we are always going to need skilled input into the development of those AI applications,” she said. “It is something we have to be aware of, but AI is not going to take over the world at this point.”
Could she benefit from linking with organisations like the EBU? She has close links to multiple broadcast people, so can extend her contacts to advantage.
“Definitely. Chris Redmond, CEO of the RedHolt Group, and I are in the process of setting up the Global Broadcast Talent Manifesto, and it is going to do exactly that. There is a huge need and outcry for a joined-up approach to skills/talent, and looking at areas like AI,” said Wootten.
“Using a global approach, we can look at how we address three things – the skills and talent crisis, evolving technologies and the types of skills needed to exploit them, and this then links us directly into diversity and inclusion as well,” she added. “It will take a lot of work, but we are at a point where if we don’t do something now then the industry is not going to be worrying about AI, it is going to be worrying about how it is going to survive.”
Wootten paints a picture of talented people doing things with AI in different industries:
“Rather than ours! Everybody is really struggling now for talent and skills, but it takes time and investment. If AI can identify illnesses better than humans can, how fantastic is that. But you still need to be able to talk to a doctor…”
Over 20 episodes
Beyond the manifesto launch in January, Wootten has two other projects to follow but the Media Careers Podcast launched in September has attracted a host of young people keen to work in the industry, by listening to many people who are part-way along their career journey.
These include Charanprite Dhami, a 3rd AD, advancing from floor runner, who followed her love of film initially with a filmmaking course at the Prague Film School, plus Sarah McGettigan, head of TV at Pinewood studios, and Sean Williams a freelance TV floor manager.
“It is vital that people have their own career ambitions, and that is something we must instil in the young people we are working with. We have done over 20 episodes now and the feedback has been brilliant in terms of people understanding how our subjects got into the industry, and how they made their career journeys,” said Wootten.
“Everybody has been generous in sharing their LinkedIn profiles, so anybody that listens can reach out to the speakers directly,” she added.
On the diversity front, the big event recently has been the APPG For Creative Diversity Report produced by Kings College London and the University of Edinburgh. This points to a huge inequality in gender, ethnicity, and class, in a workforces dominated by graduates. Its recommendations include degree-level creative apprenticeships.
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“That is true. We are still nowhere near as far down the line on both of those as we would hope to be. There is so much research around showing that having a diverse workforce does impact the bottom line as a company. It is the same for sustainability,” said Wootten.
“People want to come and work for companies that have those values and ethos. Companies need to address these issues if they want to attract the best talent. The morale thing has notched up several degrees, where there are strong clear ethics,” she added.
A lot of unpicking
The APPG report has its value, but Wootten was disappointed overall. She explained: “The key findings are not surprising unfortunately. That is disappointing, because it means that the industry has not moved on as much as it could and should have done.
“It is ambitious but the only way we are going to be successful is if we work collectively as a sector to address diversity and inclusion. Public funding should and could cover different shapes of partnerships and digital programs of work,” she added. “The report pointed out that apprenticeships do not work for our sector, and they have not done so for a long time. But they absolutely should do because they were a critical route for young people to find a pathway into the industry.”
Wooten sees the need for a lot of unpicking, and working with government to revive apprenticeships, which do work well in other sectors. But her big ambition is to see the opening of a post-18 pathway for people who do not go to university.
“If we want a more diverse workforce then we know that people from lower socio-economic communities are not taking the university route, so we are losing that talent and have to find a solution for those post-18 pathways,” she said. “We must not get rid of the university pathways, because these are still critical. It is about supplementing different pathways.
“Everybody individually needs to take responsibility for ensuring that we have a brilliant diverse workforce. I want to continue doing work in the skills and talent base alongside diversity and inclusion. My mission to see the industry change has not gone away because I stepped away from RISE, and that is why I am working with Chris on the manifesto,” she added.
Wootten sees a multi-pronged approach that ignores age as well as socio-economic standing. Diversity must start with inspiring six-year-olds, but she wants to inspire people to join our industry across their careers.
“We must ensure that we see people come into the media industry when they are in their 30’s and 40’s. We do not have anything like that for encouraging people when they are older, and because we cannot solve everything bodies like the DPP, SMPTE and the IABM all need to be working to pull together and address diversity and inclusion to full potential,” she said. “Academia cannot solve diversity on its own.”
Chris Redmond has already deployed AI for personality and culture mapping in his recruitment business.
“There are so many different and smaller initiatives happening all over the globe, that are not being brought to a cohesive whole, and that is what Chris and I are trying to do with the manifesto – to ensure that we outline a set of principles that everybody understands,” said Wootten.
“It is a big umbrella. We are trying to standardise globally where work is happening so that it can be replicated across other countries. We might start to see things change,” she added.