The Royal Television Society (RTS) launched an innovative bursary programme in 2015, with the aim of attracting computer science and engineering graduates into the broadcast industries, writes Simon Pitts.
A career in TV might not be front-of-mind for the average computer science or engineering undergraduate, but it should be.
There is huge competition these days for the brightest minds in technology and engineering, and with the worlds of TV and the internet colliding, there has never been a more exciting time to join the media.
Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, even Demis Hassabis from DeepMind Technologies, are all investing heavily in television and long form content to shape the future of their businesses.
But it’s the TV and media companies – the ones who create, broadcast and distribute the content in the first place – who are now embracing the most exciting challenges, from streaming and video-on-demand to app development, UX design and the future of transmission and playout.
The aim of the RTS technology bursary scheme is therefore a simple one – to encourage the most talented engineering and computer science students to consider a career in television.
Steve Holebrook, Managing Director, terrestrial broadcast, Arqiva, and member of the RTS expert technology panel set out the task: “The challenge for the sector lays in reaching audiences who are consuming services over varied and diverse networks and technologies as well as over more traditional platforms.
“The availability of engineering skills is critical to the sectors success to enable it to continue to provide outstanding services to all viewers and listeners and to innovate using new technology – the skills requirements is broadening and now includes not just the traditional RF and broadcast skills but also now needs to include IP, IT, UI and app development skills.”
Fellow member of the expert technology panel and head of broadcast and media services at Ericsson Thorsten Sauer added: “Our industry is transforming rapidly to IP based, cloud enabled platforms. In this transformation we need to attract engineering talent with a passion for television and the qualification in those new engineering areas.”
Bursary students: in their own words
Abbie Howell, Imperial, Computer Science
“The RTS technology bursary scheme opened my eyes to the wide range of opportunities for a computer science graduate in the television industry.
It also gave me the chance to get hands on experience in a real work environment through the Summer Tour. Through the scheme, I now have a summer placement at Sky which I can’t wait to start and is a great chance for me to get a foot in the door.”
Owen McGowan, Oxford, Engineering
“I originally heard about the RTS technology bursary scheme at school and at the time was rather unsure as to how much engineering science could apply to the media and broadcasting industries.
Since then, however, I have learnt how deeply rooted both engineering and to a further extent computer science, are within both sectors respectively. This is something which has, throughout the length of my degree made me extremely proud to be an RTS bursary recipient.”
James Martin, Durham, Engineering
“The bursary has provided financial freedom which has helped in terms of improving overall life at university.
Also, it comes with opportunities. As a result of the bursary I will be taking part in an internship at Sky. This internship would have been much more difficult to achieve were I not on the bursary scheme.”
Henry Hargreaves, St Andrews, Computer Science
“The Royal Television Society has given me invaluable advice and, as a bursary recipient, the financial support has been incredibly helpful enabling me to purchase essential technology for my computer science course at St. Andrews.
In addition, the wealth of industry connections and exciting opportunities is a real bonus! One such example is my forthcoming internship with Sky. This is as a direct result of the 2016 Summer Tour organised by the RTS. Thank you for the encouragement and opportunities!”
Individually, companies like Ericsson, BT and Arqiva have their own internship schemes, but computer science and engineering graduates have many career options, and demand far outstrips supply.
The challenge is therefore to raise the profile of careers in the broadcast industries and give students a taste of what it’s like to work in this dynamic fast-paced environment.
That’s exactly what the RTS scheme sets out to do.
Alongside financial support through university, students are given direct and unrivalled access to a range of media companies, including a Summer tour of the industry, where the students spend a fortnight in London visiting participating companies Arqiva, BBC, BT, Channel 4, Ericsson, ITV, Sky, YouView and the Institute of Engineering Technology to hear about their technology strategies, ask questions and learn about career opportunities.
Students are then encouraged to apply for longer internships from their second year onwards, while staying in touch with the Royal Television Society through membership and industry events.
How to apply
Applications for this year’s bursaries are open until 30 June for undergraduates starting their degrees this year.
For further information or to apply visit https://www.rts.org.uk/education-training/rts-bursaries.
Applications for 2018 will open in February
From the first intake of five bursary students, four will take-up internships with member companies this Summer. The fifth is intending to apply for an internship next year.
Channel 4 Director of Strategy and Technology Keith Underwood, who also sits on the RTS expert technology panel, said: “As technology capabilities become more and more important to the competitiveness and sustainability of media companies, we must ensure the industry acts proactively to continue to attract graduates with the necessary skills from the widest of backgrounds.
“By pooling resources from several industry leaders, the RTS technology bursary scheme has been able to partner with major universities to establish an engaging internship programme and – more generally – showcase technology-based career opportunities in the media industry that may have otherwise been overlooked.”
It is early days for this initiative, but all of us at the RTS have been incredibly impressed with the standard of the applicants so far (reading their CVs has made us feel both proud and inadequate in equal measure!) and we can’t wait to welcome the next intake.
We are currently recruiting our third cohort of bursary students and preparing to run the Summer Tour for the second time.
Simon Pitts is Chair of the RTS technology bursaries and Managing Director online, Pay TV, interactive and technology, ITV