Arts sector is failing to attract diverse workforce, claims RSC exec director

Royal Shakespeare Company executive director Vikki Heywood has claimed it is “shaming” that the arts world is still failing to attract a diverse workforce.

Heywood, who has served in the post at the RSC since 2003 and has recently set up schemes at the company, including apprenticeships and bursaries, which are aimed at opening up the organisations to a broader cross-section of workers, believes that the sector as a whole is still not doing enough to market itself as a potential place for a career – especially when it comes to work backstage.

She told The Stage: “As an industry, we have not been pro-active enough about promoting ourselves to kids in schools. I think that really is where the problem is. I don’t think that people from diverse communities think about the arts as a place where they could get a job. And I think we’ve done a pretty poor job of getting that message out there.

“We’ve got to be honest about this – it’s still pretty shaming. We are not attracting a diverse workforce. I think as an industry we have to stand up and say ‘we want to’ very loudly and we are not saying it loudly enough at the moment at all. So I’m looking for some collective action here to make some noise.”

She claimed that the industry needs to develop closer links with the amateur sector, so that it can serve as a launch pad into professional employment and also stressed that the creative industries need to market themselves better through career services in schools.

Heywood added: “Our connection between the amateur networks and the professional sector is not strong enough. We have been fairly dismissive, frankly, as a profession. There’s an escalator that is completely missing for kids in schools to come into the creative industries. It is one of the fastest growing industries we have in this country – just in the West Midlands it is responsible for 10% of employment.

“Also, I think it’s important to get the message out generally. I don’t think kids in schools get nearly enough information about the creative industries. I think our sector skills council [Creative and Cultural Skills] needs to do more about that.”

For the full interview with Heywood, see this week’s print edition of The Stage.

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