Course creates a stage for stars

8th September 2000 at 01:00
MOST of the contestants on Channel 4's Big Brother say their ideal job is working on television, so living in front of a camera for a couple of months has been a small price to pay for increasing their chances of a permanent place in the limelight.

More and more people want to work in TV or other creative fields, such as film, music, fashion, design or visual arts. These industries might seem sexier than careers such as engineering or accountancy, but their popularity means they are also more difficult to break into.

However, a London training organisation has come up with a winning model for helping young people - particularly the long-term unemployed and those from ethnic minorities - to gain skills and find work in the creative industries.

TS2K, or Talent and Skills 2000, creates a winwin situation for all concerned, according to deputy chief executive, Mandy Berry. By developing individuals' creative talent and information technology skills, the initiative builds social inclusion and helps bridge the "digital divide". It should also provide more workers with the skills that creative and information technology companies need.

The need for these skills is acute: more than 200,000 people, an increase of 18 per cent since 1991, are employed in the creative industries in London. The region has the largest concentration of working artists, musicians and designers and design, print and publishing industries in the world.

Ms Berry was one of the people involved in setting up TS2K in 1996. Its first Creative Enterprise Centre was in Brixton, south London, while a pound;4 million government grant allowed two morecentres to be set up in London in 1998.

Last year TS2K ran 44 courses for 1,544 young unemployed people, 64 per cent of whom were from ethnic minorities. Half of those who completed a course obtained work placements, commissions and career positions in the creative industries. Its partners include organisations suchas the BBC, Channel 4, Cameron Mackintosh, the English National Opera and the Tate Galleries.

The goal now is to get at least 1,000 into IT and creative industries careers each year. Every participant does an introductory course in IT, which is one reason why retention rates are high, Ms Berry said. "Technology helps you to look professional very quickly, and that gives people an enormous confidence boost."

A TS2K website design course has led to Jez Houghton working on sites for Camelot and the Department for Education and Employment. The artist and circus performer has used his skills to create a website for the circus group, Flying Dudes, of which he is a member.

TS2K also offers courses and support for young creatives starting a business or freelancing, and an employment agency and online Talent Bank to help employers find people with the right skills.

Rather than ask its partners for donations, the organisation has set up an Investors in Creativity membership scheme that allows companies to use TS2K trainees for projects. They pay for their services, but doing so is cheaper and the end result more interesting than a website, for example, designed by a design consultancy, Ms Berry said.

TS2K works with employers to tailor courses so that the right people with the right skills are produced, said Ms Berry. "We provide young people with skills in areas where we know there is work."

The organisation is likely to secure government funding to take its Digital Learning Studios to other cities including Bristol, Liverpool, Brighton, Manchester and Glasgow. TS2K is also forming partnerships in Australia and South Africa.

With two government Policy Action Team reports citing its work as a model of best practice, it seems that other lifelong learning organisations could pick up some tips from TS2K.

TS2K: (0207 485 4455)

National Grid for Creativity:

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