Seetha Kumar, Chief Executive Officer, ScreenSkills

Source: Screen File

Seetha Kumar, Chief Executive Officer, ScreenSkills

The UK government has approved a new-look pilot apprenticeship model for the UK’s screen industries that will take the form of an apprentice training agency (ATA) and provide an alternative to the nationwide apprenticeship levy. 

The aim is for around 25 apprentices to be employed by the agency and placed on multiple placements during a 12-month programme. Details are still being ironed out, including who it will be run by, with a launch planned for either later this year or early in 2020. 

The new initiative, originally created by ScreenSkills, is being launched in response to industry concerns that the government’s nationwide apprenticeship levy - mandatory for all UK companies with an annual payroll bill of at least £3m – was often unworkable in such freelancer-focused industries.

Launched in April 2017, the apprenticeship levy requires companies to invest 0.5% of their annual pay bill towards apprenticeships and offer a participant a contract of at least 12 months. Film, television, visual effects (VFX) and animation companies have argued this is not possible due to the project-based nature of film and TV production where few people, even on the biggest productions, are continuously employed for a year.

This has meant an estimated £15m of the total £20m contributed to the levy pot by UK screen companies each year is presently being unspent, according to ScreenSkills. Those companies will now be able to transfer available unspent levy funds in to the scheme. The UK’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is investing a further £100,000 in the pilot.

“The opportunity to earn while you learn has huge potential to encourage new and diverse talent to join our booming film and television sector while tackling its skills needs,” said Seetha Kumar, chief executive officer of ScreenSkills.

“The pilot will provide an opportunity to stress-test a new approach to using levy funds to deliver high-quality training. There are many details to be addressed but we all agree it is important to find a way for the apprenticeship levy to support UK screen.”

The pilot scheme was announced by Jeremy Wright, the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport on a visit to the set of Bond 25 at Pinewood Studios today (July 4).

“The UK is a powerhouse for award-winning creativity enjoyed by millions globally,” said Wright. “But our creative industries cannot remain the preserve of the privileged, which is why we are helping to create new opportunities to develop a more diverse workforce. Our new pilot will explore ways for underrepresented groups in the screen industries to earn whilst they learn. But companies must provide opportunities for young people from all backgrounds to go as far as their talents take them in this thriving sector.”

Bond producer Barbara Broccoli of Eon Productions, said: “The film industry is projecting severe skill shortages in the next five to 10 years and it is vital we invest in training through apprenticeships, to ensure that we have a healthy and diverse workforce in the future.”