‘Cracks beginning to show’ with industry skills shortage

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A "skills time bomb" is threatening to damage the ability of the UK's performing arts sector to fulfil its economic promise, according to a new report published by Creative and Cultural Skills.

The Performing Arts Blueprint warns that skills shortages and gaps are likely to result from under-investment in training.

It found that the performing arts supports 5,480 businesses and 101,593 jobs in 2008/09 - an increase of a fifth compared with 2006/07 - with just over a third of those (34%) employed in on-stage occupations.

Between 2006/07 and 2008/09, the number of dancers and choreographers increased by half to 6,400, while directors, producers and administrators grew by 17% to just under 15,200.

But despite 45% of arts organisations reporting a rise in turnover in 2008/09, more than half (55%) did not invest in staff training, with 40% claiming they lacked time to implement training programmes.

Only 11% had accessed public funding intended to facilitate professional development, and four in ten staff received no training at all during the period.

Pointing to the report's findings that skills shortages are forcing half of all businesses to increase workloads for existing staff, while skills gaps have meant 36% of organisations have turned new work away, CCS chief executive Tom Bewick said: "The cracks are beginning to show. If this situation continues, there's a real risk that the performing arts sector won't have the skilled staff it needs to take full advantage of future business opportunities and this will prevent it from fulfilling its economic promise."

Technical, administration and ICT skills showed the most severe shortages.

With 151,000 new jobs expected in the sector over the next seven years, 55% of which will be in "associate professional and technical roles", the report cautions "it is vital that performing arts businesses begin to invest in training in these roles as soon as possible".