Roz Chairs First ITTP Conference
Tue, 25 Feb 2014 00:00:00 GMT
Concern is growing in the TV industry about a shortage of technically skilled people for TV production and in January a new body the Institute for Training in Television Production (ITTP) held its first conference, organised by the publishers of TV-Bay magazine.
Chaired by Roz Morris, TV News Londons Managing Director, who has long experience of working as a TV news reporter and presenter for many years, the conference was held at Pinewood studios in Buckinghamshire, and was attended by more than a 100 people across the television production industry, including TV camera operators, technicians, engineers, university lecturers, representatives of manufacturers, and senior training executives from the BBC, SKY,ITV, and Creative Skillset.
Roz pointed out in her introduction that the latest Government figures, published in January 2014, reveal that UK creative industries, including the film, television and music industries, are now worth more than £70 billion a year to the UK economy, providing 1.68 million jobs, and making up 5.6% of all UK jobs. In addition, according to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, UK creative industries grew by almost 10% in 2012, outperforming all other sectors of UK industry.
As the Chair of ITTP, freelance lighting cameraman Graham Reed, opened the conference with a hardhitting keynote speech. He painted a bleak picture of the skills that current media technology courses are teaching. He recalled a recent lighting job on which he gave experience to third-year students. I asked them the 13A question: what current can you draw from a domestic circuit? he recalled. I asked them about amps, and got the distinct impression that they had no idea. Their ideas of wiring up a 13A plug made me very scared.
Young people want to direct music videos, but they have no idea of counting bars or musical notation. Students do not seem to know anything about logarithms, even though we see and hear in log scales. How did this happen?
If they are lacking in core technical skills, he also felt they were missing artistic sensibilities too. If I ask camera students who their favourite artist or photographer is, they look at me blankly, he said. He added that when he had been a young camera operator he had been told to make every shot a Rembrandt.
In the conference first session, discussion of this theme continued with focus on skills that employers currently need. Both Chris Owen, head of cameras at ITV, and Douglas Fletcher, operations director at CTV, one of Europes largest independent outside broadcast companies, said they did take new graduates, but they saw them very much as trainees who need considerable further work before they can be useful to their new employers.
Owen said that he received applicants from students who had identified studio multi-camera operations as their future, who had never been inside a studio. We have 3000 people a week as audiences in The London Studios, Why have they not done that? This is something I criticise the universities for.
To help, ITV Studios runs a six week summer placement scheme, providing two weeks with cameras, sound and lighting. They typically get 200 300 applications for around 12 places.
At CTV Fletcher recruits around nine students a year from around 120 applications, for those who want to work in outside broadcasts. This is expensive for us, he said. We cant send them out as engineers, and we get no money from our clients for them.
Peter Leverick, now running the New Leaf Academy as an alternative training route for camera operators, raised another issue, that having the individual skills is not enough. They need to know about teamwork, and they need to know how to deal with performers, in a diplomatic but positive way. Training in these skills was not prioritised at universities.
This led on to a discussion of the role of universities in training. With some heads of department from the more active universities in the room there was, unsurprisingly, enthusiasm for degree courses. But on the other hand, many voices who would perhaps accept the description old school professionals wanted to see much more vocational training with less a focus on academic dissertations and 3 year degree courses and more on shorter more practical training courses.
Ralph Tribe from Sky said: We have come out very firmly in favour of apprenticeships and vocational training. If the debate is about employability, we think apprenticeships are the best solution. For us, it is about competing in a market where there are not enough skills to go around. That is a pretty exciting place to be.
One of the most interesting aspects of the day was that the technical operations were provided by Kingston University, and many of the student crew joined in the debate. By the end of the day it was clear that there was no resolution to this debate, which will run and run.
A second major strand to the debate was a lively discussion about the value of Creative Skillset and its accreditation of some television training degree courses. According to Dinah Caine, the Creative Skillset CEO, the body has moved away from recognising institutions as a whole to accrediting individual courses. Out of the 4000 courses which are relevant to the creative industries, we have accredited 166, of which 68 are relevant to television.
Ultimately, the value of accreditation at present is a guide to the better courses, the academic programmes that have some value to the world of work. Dinah Caine, added I think it is incredibly important that students get signposted into courses that will be relevant to future employment. Creative Skillset accreditation is now a part of formal student information packs.
Anne Morrison of BBC Academy made the point even more starkly: I feel very sorry for some people who have spent £9000 a year for three years on a degree that is not worth very much. We have to be involved in universities and accreditation.
While the old days of almost everyone in the TV production industry going through BBC Wood Norton Training Centre at some stage in their career have long gone, Morrison was keen to emphasise that the BBC is still the industry trainer. We delivered something like 50,000 days of training last year, and our websites are open access to people outside the BBC, she said. The philosophy of the BBC Academy is to share our knowledge with the wider industry because we are all dependent upon a mobile workforce.
The point was also made that work experience can help to bridge the expectations gap between students at university and employers. As Doug Fletcher of CTV said, a 30 camera outside broadcast is a big eye opener for students.
For the BBC, Anne Morrison said we have about 1500 people a year come in on work experience. This is limited to four weeks. Work experience can be abused, and we are leading the way in stamping this out. Creative Skillset has brought out a set of guidelines on the law and work experience.
The conference heard that Sunset + Vine has taken on a group of apprentices for its 2014 Commonwealth Games coverage. However while work experience was seen as an important part of the process, the point was also made that the tools today are so inexpensive that cost is rarely a barrier.
David G Croft, one of our most successful light entertainment directors and now a lecturer at the National Film and Television School, said You want to be a director make some films! Film your mum making breakfast and work up. If you want to be successful in the television industry, then you have to go for it.
After a day debating skills shortages, it was clear that opening up the lines of communication on all sides of the industry is vital. The ITTP is seeking further clarification in what the industry wants and what universities and other training bodies can deliver as practical steps for the future. As chairman Graham Reed said in his summing up, By improving training we can improve the profitability of the British television industry. This conference is about making it happen.
For more information on ITTP visit here