ScreenSkills has called for fundamental reform of the apprenticeship levy in the UK and how apprenticeships are applied for the TV and film sector in England, following an assessment of two pilot schemes.
Working with industry partners as well as the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Department for Education (DfE), ScreenSkills has run two successive apprenticeship pilots.
The first pilot ran between January 2020 to February 2023 with Netflix, Warner Bros Discovery and was co-funded by the DCMS. ScreenSkills was the employer of the 20 apprentices during the pilot, with industry partners paying wage costs and providing placements throughout the programme.
The second pilot started in February 2022 and will finish in January 2024. Alongside lead partner, Amazon Prime Video, ScreenSkills worked with Sky (with APX Content Ventures), Banijay, Lime Pictures and Fremantle; the pilot was co-funded by the DfE.
ScreenSkills said there have been some benefits from both pilots - greater diversity by creating opportunities for apprenticeships from varied backgrounds, positive experiences of apprentices during on-the-job training and, in the case of the original pilot progression into the industry.
However, it concluded that they revealed fault lines in the current apprenticeship system.
ScreenSkills said they were not flexible enough to provide a viable long-term training solution for apprentices in film or TV production. The training organisation added that the external and internal costs incurred by employers in the pilot are unsustainable in the long-term. A key issue was the resource required to identify sufficient, suitable and continuous placements to provide on-the-job training at scale due to the project-based nature of film and television.
The pilots also revealed that the quality and relevance of some of the apprenticeship standards and the off-the-job training constituted poor value for money when compared to other entry level routes that are available in the industry.
Overall costs for both apprenticeship models were estimated to be significantly higher than other entry-level training programmes, with only 14% of the total costs of the pilots covered by levy contributions, compared with 69% being met by industry.
As a result of the two pilots, ScreenSkills’ central recommendation is to reform the current apprenticeship levy as well as how apprenticeships are applied in the screen industries.
It said an imperative is to extend the scope of the Apprenticeship Levy so that it can provide support to a broader range and diversity of vocational training options that would be recognised and quality-assured by ScreenSkills.
Additionally, the levy should be made more flexible to allow money to be used to cover the additional costs that have so far been incurred by the employers. This includes paying apprenticeship wages when undertaking off-the-job training or on leave, or funding means-tested bursaries to increase the diversity of new entrants.
Additionally, the removal of the fixed minimum-length requirements for apprenticeship standards would enable them to be better aligned with the specific requirements of roles in film and TV production and deliver training that was both more effective and relevant.
“Apprenticeships can be a powerful and effective way of building a skilled and inclusive workforce, offering a gateway for people irrespective of background or educational attainment, but currently the system is ineffective and inflexible,” commented Seetha Kumar, CEO, ScreenSkills. “What we are proposing to Government will enable the sector to unlock the true potential that the apprenticeship system could offer by better reflecting the distinctive needs of our freelance, project-based sector.”
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