“Desperate need” for business skills laid bare

Creative and cultural organisations are struggling to recruit employees with fundraising and business support skills, a new report reveals.

A “desperate need” for skills like fundraising, business support and marketing within creative and cultural organisations has been laid bare by new research.

In a report by CRE Research for Creative and Cultural Skills (CC Skills) and Arts Council England (ACE), a third of creative businesses identified a skills gap in their organisation.

The research also reveals concerns about whether schools are adequately preparing students for creative careers, with more than two-thirds of cultural organisations believing that not enough young people are studying creative subjects at school.

Gaps and shortages

The research examined organisations of all sizes in areas falling under ACE’s stewardship, including music and dance groups, theatres and museums. It considers both skills gaps – where proficiency in a given area is lacking within an organisation’s current workforce – and skills shortages, meaning capacities that businesses across the sector struggle to recruit for.

33% of creative businesses identified a skills gap, with the most common gaps being in business marketing and communication skills (53%), and general problem-solving skills (48%). 44% of businesses identified a fundraising skills gap.

Similarly, more than 3 in 10 creative businesses reported skills shortages. The biggest areas where there is difficulty recruiting are business support operations (45%) and fundraising (44%)

Understanding deficiencies

The report notes that 94% of arts businesses have no employees, compared to a UK average of 76%, adding that smaller organisations are less likely to invest in continuous professional development.

Similarly, it says, businesses in the creative and cultural industries “tend not to think strategically about their current and future skills needs” and that many only access training “when an immediate need arises”.

It also suggests that “poor initial education and training” in creative subjects, combined with “inadequate careers education and guidance”, contributes to long-standing skills shortages. The authors argue that this situation is exacerbated by the prevalence of unpaid internships and networking as routes into the sector, narrowing opportunities for non-graduates and people from lower socio-economic groups.