Ahead of the 500-student Rise Up Academy summer school, BT Sport chief engineer Andy Beale warned: “The looming skills crisis we’ve been waiting for is here, and it’s real.”
The parallel diversity crisis, in its gender, ethnic, socioeconomic, and disability aspects, sits alongside a shortage of skill sets in media technology infrastructures, but may need to sit as an almost ongoing ambition while the industry begins to solve its skills-set headache. .
But Andy Beale was also optimistic. “I really think we can attract a slightly different type of person than we used to have and increase our diversity to where it should be,” he said.
Like BT Sports, ITV Studios is a big supporter of the Rise Up Academy, with Tim Guilder, Director of Production Technology, adding: “With 40% uptake in video delivery that we’re trying to do, we’ve got a lot of content. that needs to be produced. We need technical people to help facilitate that.”
He has new talent in mind who want to understand how things like intellectual property work in television production. In the Summer School, which incorporated groups of 250 young people from 11 to 14 years old for two days and 250 young people from 15 to 18 years old for two more days, the eight workshops offered a much wider variety of professional opportunities.
Recognized job roles may disappear
During the event, Rise MD Carrie Wootten said, “Traditionally, we’ve waited for people to come to us, because we’ve been swamped with interested people. But that has changed significantly.
“What we’re trying to do is give young people an overview of all sorts of different routes into the industry, whether it’s new technology over IP, more traditional engineering technology, post-production, graphics, or fast-growing areas like broadcast. and virtual production”, he added. “We want to see them find where their passions lie.”
It was surely highly unlikely that students who enjoyed the overview of different career paths would nominate the same workshop as their favorite.
“Some of them will come out of the loving virtual production of the Summer School. But others will say that I actually want to go and build a gallery in a TV studio and do outside broadcast work,” Wootten said. “Skill sets are key. But with other new roles popping up all the time, some well-known roles might soon be gone.”
So what was the Summer School trying to accomplish? “It was originally an idea on a piece of paper that I had in March,” Wootten said. “There were twin things to solve: the current skills shortage, we have an aging white male workforce, and we have that lack of diversity coming into the industry.”
“What we were trying to accomplish with the Summer School is to look at those issues and attract new talent that wants to work in our industry. We need them,” Wootten added. “We involved more than 40 companies, more than 100 volunteers, and now it has become a great project.”
The next step is to take what the Summer School has accomplished and grow it.
“If we are going to achieve what we want as an industry, which is to solve the skills crisis and the diversity problem, we have to scale this,” Wootten said. “We have to reach a large number of young people and inspire them, educate them and inform them about the television industry. It’s about the pipe.
“The youngest children we have worked with in our previous Rise Up Academy workshops numbered nine. There are the high schools you have to go to, and then there are the schools you want to go to after that. Not all young people want to go to college or can afford it,” she added. “If college isn’t for you, then we need to think about creating other routes into the industry at 18.”
Retraining is also in process
Television is not short of people interested in the industry, and there is talent out there.
“We haven’t told them how to get into our industry and what skills they need. And some people have asked me if we’re going to do an adult version of Summer School. With regards to retraining and retraining, this has to be something I have to look at over the next year,” Wootten said.
But building on the first Summer School, which was very much an experiment, comes with a barrier.
“I would love to do this in Leeds, Manchester, Glasgow, Cardiff and in Devon or Cornwall. I would love for DCMS to give us some money. We need the government to give us funding because the media industry is huge in the UK and it generates huge revenue for UK plc,” Wootten said.
“The critical thing with the Summer School was the practical part. The workshops were nothing like lessons. Everyone was creating something in each workshop. That allows them to think: ‘I can make a career for myself; I can do this as a job. They don’t get that out of school,” she added.
The workshops, all supported by six people and reflecting the levels of ethnic diversity that companies like BT Sport, ITV and Sky are urgently seeking, focused on things like creating live streams, mixing visions in the cloud, post-production (including VFX, editing, and color grading) and adding graphics to the video in the traditional way.
It was the latter that highlighted the rapid changes we’ve seen in workflows, with graphics now being rendered or generated on the device each viewer is looking at, and not being indelibly etched into the video.
“You don’t necessarily need a broadcast degree to get into media. Show passion and willingness to try something new…”
Suddenly different sponsors, different languages and many interactive benefits are involved with personalization. Frankie, a student we met at the live streaming session, said that she had piqued her interest and that she wanted to work in film with Sky.
“The feedback from the first group of students, from session to session, showed that one child said something was really boring, but another child said the same thing was the most amazing thing ever. That’s the idea of Summer School, to give them that experience,” Wootten said. “What has overwhelmed me so much is that all the industry partners are working collaboratively through academia.”
Moved from a medical fund
Mirusha Jegatheeswaran, Content Technology Support Engineer at ITV Daytime and Rise Women in Broadcast 2021 Mentee, explained how she entered the industry in keynotes for both summer school age groups. And it was no surprise that they were fully engaged.
His presence on ITV Daytime is a boost to the diversity campaign, as well as a clear signal that broadcasters need to recruit from other industries.
“I come from a non-TV background. I studied computer systems engineering, and that’s what I do in my first media job,” she said. “I was originally working in healthcare with the NHS, so moving from medical training to broadcasting was challenging.
“I was prepared because I am a person interested in learning new things. I explained that you don’t necessarily need a broadcast degree to get into media. Show passion and a willingness to try something new and a desire to advance in the industry, and recruiters would love to hire you,” he added.
Jegatheeswaran would be willing to help Rise when developing retraining activities for adults. She confessed, “I didn’t know anything about broadcast media and the technology used within the industry, and I’m still learning on the job.
“I can proudly say that ITV did not look at my previous experiences. I am the first woman they recruit into the team, and this is something to appreciate,” she added. “And I want to continue to encourage more women to enter the industry.
“The more mistakes you make, the more lessons you learn, which is why I chose this industry. I know when I’m wrong, I keep learning and I have very understanding colleagues who always help me and want to get the best out of me”.
To learn more about Rise Up Academy and the important work it is doing, please read The Rise Up Academy: Helping Media Tech Solve Its Skills Crisis