London South Bank University’s training program adapts in the shadow of COVID-19 social distancing realities.
Not even a global pandemic has stopped post-production employers from opening a much-needed apprenticeship program in recognition of the need for accredited post-production training for technical operators in post houses, broadcasters and in-house facilities. On April 9, nine apprentices from seven companies began their training, provided by London South Bank University (LSBU,) to become post-production technical operators. The apprentices are employed by Evolutions, Deluxe 142, Visual Data Media Services, Clear Cut Pictures, Timeline TV, Fifty Fifty Post and Platform Post.
The program, two and half years in development, will last 12 months and includes three three-week blocks of off-the job training interspersed by on-the-job work experience. Apprentices will be assessed at the end for qualification at an equivalent level to an HNC. The creation of the apprenticeship was led by Rowan Bray, MD of Clear Cut, and UK Screen Alliance CEO, Neil Hatton, with the assistance of a group of leading post-production employers. The funding for the development process came from the ScreenSkills High-End TV Skills fund and from contributions by high-end TV productions.
The apprenticeship is fully accredited by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, allowing larger participating companies to fund the training from their own compulsory apprenticeship levy contributions. Smaller companies have received support through the UK Screen Alliance ALT scheme, which facilitates transfers from large levy-payers with excess unused contributions.
“It’s hugely satisfying to see the apprentices start their training after all the work our trailblazer group of employers and the teaching team at LSBU put in to developing the course,” commented Bray. “The need to support the upskilling of our staff has long been recognized, given the complexity of modern post-production, in meeting the ambitions of film and program-makers. We were determined not to let the pandemic get in the way.”
Industry trainer Pat Horridge and LSBU course leader Ben Mallaby converted the course materials and lectures to be delivered online in compliance with the required Covid-19 social distancing measures. The entire post industry has rapidly adapted to working remotely, responding to the shifting needs of producers in the shadow of the pandemic.
This cohort was not recruited specifically as apprentices but were selected from existing employees who have being given the opportunity to upskill to the technical operator role.
“I see no reason why the apprentices will not get their on-the-job experience as their companies continue to work, albeit the work is diminishing as rushes are not being created and productions are having to furlough staff,’ added Bray.
As with the post-production apprenticeship, the current VFX apprenticeships are also converting to online delivery. However, widespread shutdown of filming across the industry has reduced work pipelines to only a few more weeks, resulting in workers being furloughed. As a result, recruitment and future apprenticeships are on hold. The production apprenticeships being run with Netflix and Warner Bros., have also paused the application process until filming resumes.
Hatton is calling on the government to suspend the compulsory monthly apprenticeship levy payments made by large companies as one way of delivering much needed immediate cashflow. He also wants to see a freeze on the expiration of unused levy contributions during the Covid-19 lockdown. Companies have 24 months in which to use their levy payments on apprenticeship training, otherwise it is retained by the Treasury.
“The post-production apprenticeship is the one bright spot at the moment but across the whole economy there’s £85 million of apprenticeship levy expiring every month and that figure will only increase with the current hold on recruitment and apprenticeship starts,” explained Hatton. “We need to retain our levy contributions within our sector to address the skills shortages which will be all the more apparent on the other side of this crisis.”
“ScreenSkills is a strong supporter of apprenticeships in the sector and the High-end TV Skills Fund is delighted to have been able to support the development of this apprenticeship standard with contributions from productions,” noted ScreenSkills director high-end television, Kaye Eilliott. “Challenges remain in making apprenticeships work across the whole sector and for all job roles. But where they can work, we continue to support and encourage employers to take them up. By enabling people to earn while they learn, it is possible to attract a greater diversity of talent into the screen industries.”
“LSBU is delighted to be launching the post-production technical operator apprenticeship in partnership with UK Screen Alliance,” remarked LSBU apprentice manager, Alison May. “It is a testament to all involved, that, in spite of these strange and challenging times, we are continuing to deliver innovative and exciting programs in the creative and arts industries.”
Source: UK Screen Alliance