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Creative and Cultural Skills’ Melanie Shee: ‘Employers are looking for soft, transferable skills’

Melanie Shee. Photo: Eden Sandy

What organisations / colleges have you worked at?
I have worked in business development and as a trainer, assessor, qualification designer and fundraiser for organisations including Workers Educational Association, Cleveland College of Art and Design (now Northern School of Art) and my own freelance business.

How did you start off in creative industries?
As a neurodivergent learner I loved film, theatre and drawing. I had always made my own clothes and accessories, so it was no surprise I went on to do BTec Art and Design / Fashion. It wasn’t for me, but I enjoyed research and film, so did a degree in cultural studies and went to work at ScreenSkills (formerly Creative Skillset).

What is the best piece of advice you have for students today?
If you want to work in the sector, get to know it well and network constantly. Develop your soft, transferable skills, as this is what employers are looking for.

What would you change about training in the UK?
The inflexibility and lack of innovation around modes of delivery and meeting the needs of neurodivergent learners.

What is the best part of your job?
Working with arts and cultural organisations to raise awareness of apprenticeships and hearing their success stories.

And your least favourite?
Lack of apprenticeship opportunities, as the sector still defaults to employing graduates. There are twice as many graduates working in our sector than any other. Think of the talent they are missing out on.

Who are the practitioners you admire the most / who should students be looking up to?
Those who have achieved success against the odds.

What is the one skill that every successful creative professional should have?
Resilience. There is a good chance you will face rejection initially, but don’t give up.

If you were to undertake an apprenticeship or do a degree, what would you chose?
Without a doubt, the apprenticeship. You can’t beat on-the-job learning.

Melanie Shee is Creative and Cultural Skills partnership manager for the North East. She was talking to John Byrne

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