Chapter 6: Broadening access

Culture Club: Social mobility in the creative and cultural industries

Chapter 6: Broadening access

The previous chapters have used interviews with young people, employers and educators to consider the role of economic, social and cultural capital in securing access to and progression through the creative and cultural industries, as well as the extent to which social background determines accumulation of these forms of capital. This is not just an issue of fairness and equity, but also a challenge for London in the long term, as it could result in loss of talent and poor creative output. In light of these findings, what can be done to remedy unbalanced representation within London’s creative and cultural industries? Although there is likely to be no silver bullet, this chapter outlines further research and case studies of positive change, before outlining our recommendations.

Changing perceptions

The role of economic, social and cultural capital in accessing and developing creative careers – as outlined in the preceding chapters – may seem self-evident. But new research has suggested it is not self-evident to the cultural elite – the very group who hold the most influential positions in the cultural and creative industries.

The Panic! Social Class, Taste and Inequalities in the Creative Industries 44 report published in early 2018 undertook a survey of employers in order to understand their perception of fairness in the sector. The majority of respondents were in the most influential positions in the cultural and creative industries, and were asked about the importance of several factors in getting ahead. Responses were collated by researchers into three groups (see Table 2).

The results from the study indicate that senior managers are most likely to believe that it is meritocracy (the idea that success is contingent on talent and ability) – rather than education or social reproduction – that determines success. This suggests a lack of awareness of social class, ethnicity and gender exclusions in the workforce, and may inhibit a change in practices.

Yet, employers’ attitudes are crucial in tackling underrepresentation in the creative and cultural industries, and some employers have started to change their recruitment practices with education and social reproduction factors in mind, in order to improve access for all.

Changing recruitment

In a bid to attract a more diverse workforce, some employers have been trying to change their recruitment approach:

One of the things we’re trying to push is recruiting more openly, so we’re not so obsessed with university graduates anymore; we just want people to come in and learn the job.

Employer in the film, TV, radio and photography sector

One of the first steps has been to attempt to measure social class, which unlike gender and ethnicity is not a protected characteristic that is legally required to be monitored:

We’ve just started to measure socioeconomic background. The question we’re using to measure this accurately is: ‘When you were 14, what did the main breadwinner do in your household?’ And these are categorised into seven different groups that go into different social classes […] we’ve also asked people if they’ve been to a private or state school. We’re measuring that now because we want our workforce to be reflective. We are a national broadcaster and so we want to reflect the nation.

Employer in the film, TV, radio and photography sector

Some employers have been going further by taking active measures to tackle inequalities of social and economic capital. One example is Penguin Random House UK. As outlined in the most recent Social Mobility Employer Index report, 45 the company offers 450 two-week placements every year across its editorial, sales, marketing and publicity teams. The placements are all paid the National Living Wage, and places are offered through random selection. Personal referrals are banned, and the company offers a subsidised flat to those on work experience who live outside London and have difficulty affording accommodation in the capital. The London Transport Museum (see Case Study 1) is another example of trying to diversify the routes which people can use to get into the sector.

Although it is difficult to get a full picture of the recruitment practices of both large and small organisations, some smaller organisations in the pool of employers we have spoken to have stopped offering unpaid internships, instead offering paid traineeship routes.

Apprenticeships are also an increasingly popular way to recruit workers: an employer we spoke to in the film, TV and production sector outlined that the main entry point for their company was apprenticeships rather than graduate recruitment. However, apprenticeships sometimes present difficulties for small and mediumsized employers, and London still lags behind the rest of England in terms of uptake. 46 Pay is one issue: the current apprenticeship minimum wage for workers under 19 and/or in the first year of an apprenticeship is very low (£3.70 per hour), and wouldn’t cover living costs in much of London, though higher rates are available for older or more experienced apprentices, and it should be noted that employers can set pay rates above these levels.

Furthermore, creative apprenticeships rarely run above Level 3/Advanced apprenticeships, which are equivalent to an A Level. Unlike other sectors, there are no creative degree courses at Higher and Degree apprenticeship levels, which are respectively equivalent to a foundation degree and a bachelor’s or master’s degree. 47 Further, a London search for cultural apprenticeships (as defined in this report) on the government’s apprenticeship portal returned only one apprenticeship at Advanced Level in cultural production for a cultural organisation.

Other organisations such as Creative Access and Create Jobs have been looking to support young people to access jobs in the sector, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds. One of these is the STEP programme, which is a localised cultural employability programme in London (see Case Study 2).


Programmes to support young people in entering the creative and cultural industries are most effective when supported by outreach programmes for people aged 11-25. The Roundhouse (see Case Study 3) combines both. Other outreach initiatives include the National Saturday Club, which offers free programmes of expert tuition with London universities and colleges in subject areas including Arts and Design to 13-16 year olds. The National Collaborative Outreach Programme (NCOP) targets students aged 13-18 who have potential at GCSE level to go into higher education but stop at further education, bringing together universities, colleges and other local partners.

These are just some examples of programmes intended to tackle the differences in cultural capital acquisition outlined in Chapter 5.

Case Study 1: London Transport Museum

The London Transport Museum (LTM) has transformed its recruitment practices to diversify ways into the sector, and to support applicants from non-traditional backgrounds.

Traditional application forms have been replaced with short statements, as a way to emphasise potential and passion rather than credentials. The museum conducts task-based assessment days rather than one-to-one interviews. If participants are not offered a role, alternative opportunities are presented either within the organisation or through partner organisations. The museum also offers to welcome participants back for pre-employment support.

LTM has four established programmes providing multiple routes into the sector:

  • Its apprenticeship programme recruits those without a degree to provide training in the museum environment.

  • The Young Freelance Programme – for degree holders – supports people to set up a freelance career in the industry by working on ad hoc projects and briefs in conjunction with other organisations (helping to broaden networks).

  • The Route into Work scheme, a three-day pre-employment course for 16-25 year-olds, aims to prepare young people for meeting employers and applying to transport and infrastructure jobs using LTM’s collection as a creative resource.

  • The Young Volunteers Programme provides short-term and meaningful work experience projects, resulting in a public display of the completed outcome.

Case Study 2: STEP

STEP (Shared Training and Employment Programme) is a 12-month programme that offers young people from east London training, mentoring and work experience in the creative and cultural industries. It helps them to develop networks and accumulate social and cultural capital, and also offers support to smaller employers.

It is funded by the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), shaped and developed in partnership with founding members Bow Arts, Sadler’s Wells and London College of Fashion, and supported and delivered by Create Jobs, part of A New Direction.

STEP participants work across two different areas of the creative industries in order to develop key cross-disciplinary skills and gain a further insight into the variety of roles across the sector. Alongside their placement, participants are paired with a mentor and peer network, taking part in a series of twilight training sessions and industry-led masterclasses across the year.

The programme provides a pathway for those underrepresented in the creative sector, and supports organisations to recruit from a diverse talent pool. In line with the Mayor of London’s Good Work Standard, it challenges traditional recruitment practices across the sector that can act as a barrier to young people without the “right” connections, know-how or financial backing. It provides a bursary to support small organisations in paying the London Living Wage, removing a key barrier for those from low socio-economic backgrounds.

STEP is part of the LLDC’s “East Works” programme – a flexible demand-led
employment, skills and enterprise programme for people living in Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Newham and Waltham Forest.

Case Study 3: The Roundhouse

The Roundhouse, located in the London Borough of Camden, seeks both to broaden young people’s access to cultural participation and production, and to enable young people from underrepresented backgrounds to pursue careers in the arts.

The Roundhouse has been a cultural hub since 1966 when it was first launched as an arts centre. Following a £30 million refurbishment, the Roundhouse reopened in 2006 with the objectives of providing a safe space for young people aged 11-25 to be creative, and being a springboard to the cultural industries. Its focus is on providing access and opportunity to young people classed as marginalised and at a social disadvantage. Each year the Roundhouse works with 6,000 young people, with over half of these from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

The Roundhouse has opened the door to a series of creative projects through their “Open Access Programme” in music, media and performing arts. These projects have led to the development of the required hard and soft skills needed for a creative career, giving young people the confidence to embark on further opportunities beyond the Roundhouse.

The Roundhouse encourages in-house career development with opportunities for upward progression. In 2016, 13 young people were employed at the Roundhouse through the traineeship and apprenticeship scheme run in collaboration with Sadler’s Wells Theatre.

In spite of this, the Roundhouse has highlighted the difficulty that the apprenticeship levy has posed for cultural organisations, and this year halted the programme to undertake a review. They are also currently developing an entrylevel workforce strategy to find to bring people from all levels of experience into the creative and cultural industries, and are looking to design entry-level careers in the future.

Outreach is also part of the work at the Roundhouse, particularly in local secondary schools and colleges. Learning resources, creative projects and career insight tours are provided, all run by professional artists with experience in the cultural industries. Additionally, the Roundhouse runs a Community Engagement programme that provides an entry-level access point to the arts, particularly for young people with fewer opportunities. In order to do so, it has established a Community Network comprising 70 local organisations including housing associations, youth services, mental health specialists, youth and community centres, and homelessness organisations. The Network comes together to share experiences, work towards shared goals and provide referrals for young people to the Roundhouse (or externally when they need additional support).

Participants of the Young Creatives project run by the Roundhouse
Participants of the Young Creatives project run by the Roundhouse Ellie Pinney
  • 44 Brook, O., O’Brien, D. & Taylor, M. (2018). Panic! Social Class, Taste and Inequalities in the Creative Industries. London: Create London.
  • 45 City of London and Social Mobility Foundation (2018). The Social Mobility Employer Index 2018: Key Findings. Retrieved from: uploads/2018/07/Social-Mobility-Employer-Index-2018-Keyfindings. pdf
  • 46 Barrett, S. & Belcher, E. (2018, November 6). The London Intelligence: Issue 6. Retrieved from: https://www. education/#ks4-achievements
  • 47 Research interviews and National College of Creative Industries website.