Taking the time to tutor students and introduce them to the world of TV, broadcasting and technology is essential if we want to boost diversity in our industry, writes Rise managing director Carrie Wootten.

The Rise Up Academy workshops have been a passion project of mine for the last couple of years. I fundamentally believe that if we don’t invest in children and young people, we are never going to move the dial of diversity across our sector, or any sector for that matter.

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Rise Up Academy: One of 16 workshops delivered this year

Back in in mid-July, I wasn’t sure we were ever going to get the workshops off the ground or to the scale that I had hoped for. But, five months later, amazingly we have hosted 16 workshops, with 411 children, in three locations all supported by 41 volunteers!

As cheesy and cliched as it sounds, these workshops have changed lives. I could literally see this in front of me as we worked with the children each day.

The hands-on aspect of the workshops was making them think about the possible - what they could be doing when they entered the workforce and what kind of role might be suitable for them.

“We worked with children aged 9 through to 18 years old – they all undertook the same workshop and had the same set up. The intention was to inspire, educate and inform each of them about TV, broadcasting, technology and really show that these types of careers can be exceptionally rewarding”

University Technology Colleges (UTCs) are a fantastic network of schools across England all focussed on technology, media and engineering skillsets – a perfect fit for the huge gap in skills that we have within our industry. They enabled us to reach out to young people that would have never thought about broadcast engineering and technical roles before.

As Josh Martin from transcription, captioning and audio description firm Take 1 explains: “At a surface level, the activity was a lot of fun, but scratch below that surface and there was something really special going on: these students were taking the initiative, problem solving and discovering that broadcast careers can be fun and rewarding.”

We worked with children aged 9 through to 18 years old – they all undertook the same workshop and had the same set up. The intention was to inspire, educate and inform each of them about TV, broadcasting, technology and really show that these types of careers can be exceptionally rewarding and more importantly than that, that they could do these jobs - and earn money from them!

Sumon Thakur – Millfields Primary School Y5 teacher and Computing Lead
”Frankly, I can’t speak highly enough about our recent trip to a Rise Up workshop at Mulberry UTC in Bow. All the volunteers were incredibly welcoming and supportive of the girls.
”Furthermore, the activities were very well structured, encouraging teamwork and demonstrating real life STEM applications in the world of broadcasting to the children very successfully. The quiz show at the end was such a great idea - a really fun way to end an amazing day that the children couldn’t stop talking about on the bus home!”

The choice of locations of the workshops was important for me too – we all know that diversity is broad and has many characteristics, so I wanted to ensure we had socio-economic and ethnic diversity at the heart of the workshops.

As it turned out, and not unsurprisingly, there was also a huge amount of other diversity within the students we worked with. Students with hearing difficulties, children with ADHD, others with Asperger’s and a child with Down’s syndrome. There were also those with truancy issues and a student who was an elective mute. Such a breadth of young people, who were all incredible individuals with so much potential.

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Rise Academy: Teaching skills

As it turned out, the student who was an elective mute worked brilliantly in the sound team. He communicated and chatted with the industry volunteer throughout the workshop, which was something that the teachers within that school had never seen. So powerful and so inspiring.

Our industry volunteers also gained a huge amount from being involved in the programme:

’’I gained much from the week myself, learning different departments from the other volunteers, being able to discuss their career paths and routes they took, but most importantly meet new people and feel part of the industry, something very exciting due to the fact I’m still a student myself,” said Holly Van De Rest, Solent University.

“The main purpose of these workshops was to introduce the children to a world of broadcasting, and I can confidently say that was achieved. Students who didn’t even know these jobs existed left with a passion for broadcasting and an interest that hopefully will stay with them and one they pursue.’’

Read more The tools to succeed: why I joined the Rise mentoring scheme 

Ultimately the aim of the workshops is to inspire the young people to think about a career in our sector and the feedback we received demonstrates that this is absolutely what happens, when you highlight through direct interaction and practical scenarios:

“My experience was great,” said Chloe Bruce, a year 11 student at Mulberry UTC.

“The people that were involved were down to earth, they were supportive and understood when we didn’t understand how to do things. They helped us put things together. Throughout the experience we had to have a lot of communication skills between the different departments such as sound, graphics, vision, camera, as well as the host and contestants when we ran the quiz show. My group (Vision) had to make sure all of the cables were connected to the correct camera and monitor.

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Rise: Wants to maintain momentum of recent workshops

“The overall experience was very educational and a great eye-opener that showed all of the work that goes into great TV. It also helped me have a clearer idea on the paths I want to go down working in the TV and film industry.”

The challenge now is to keep the momentum; this one set of workshops is not going to change our landscape. We need to keep pushing. Achieving diversity within a workforce is complex and challenging. But not having enough time or funding to support this type of work is not an excuse anymore.

We cannot let these young people and children down. My inbox is full of other schools that want this initiative to reach them – the will is there - we just need the industry’s support.

If anyone would like to get involved in the workshops in 2022, please contact me.

  • Carrie Wootten is managing director of Rise