One of the overlooked benefits of Arts Award is how it improves employability. In developing their art form and researching artists working in it, young people gain an understanding of the range of jobs available in art and the routes to entry.
More than that, Arts Award helps develop the soft skills the employers repeatedly cite they look for in candidates; confidence, communication, leadership, time-keeping, etc.
One organisation that is using Arts Award very effectively to develop employability is Ignite Imaginations. A Sheffield-based-charity, Ignite Imaginations manages a variety of projects aimed at developing arts skills. One of these projects, Arts & Cultural Ambassadors, is delivered as part of a partnership investment with IVE and is a smaller part of the larger programme, Better Learners, Better Workers.
Better Learners, Better Workers aims to close the gap between employers and young people in Sheffield such that young people realise what options are available to them and understand the routes into achieving those careers, and employers understand the talents, interests and abilities of their future workforce and can plan accordingly. This is done via the concept of student Ambassadors aged 13-16 who are given a rich range of experiences both in school and in the workplace to develop their job-ready skills and attitudes and their sector-specific understanding. The Ambassadors promote employment sectors to their peers and showcase young people’s talents and abilities.
There are Ambassadors covering 6 industries with Ignite Imaginations managing the Arts and Cultural Ambassadors. Within this programme; 17 creative partners, 7 schools and 59 ambassadors are connected. The programme is designed to inspire the next generation of directors, artists and CEOs and give them the relevant work experience and insight into the creative sector. As part of this, the young people all work towards achieving an Arts Award Bronze, drawing upon all the sessions they attend to build the evidence they need.
Yesterday, we managed to get along to one of Ignite Imaginations Arts Award sessions that was run by Music in the Round in Sheffield. Music in the Round who were delivering the session are a chamber music series who put on concerts across the country with excellence and access to all at the heart of all their programmes. They are renowned for making Classical music more informal and enjoyable for those who may find the concert etiquette exclusive. As well as this they programme concerts specifically for young people, early years and those with special needs.
This session was designed to help the young people explore roles within the organisation (Music in the Round) and also take part in a creative session on how to express your views, the use of language, using non-verbals and how to review arts events.
We began with ways in which to express your views, non-verbally, which took on the form of a graphic score where the young people were drawing the shape and sound of the music, as Katie from Music in the Round performed a beautiful violin solo live in the room. These came in all shapes and sizes; some were squiggly lines, others huge circles and then these were passed on to the next person to start the next musical characteristic to describe. This was a wonderful way to get them thinking about a really complex piece of music. For people who are not musicians themselves, it can often be difficult to describe it without having the technical language, but this was a visual and engaging way of understanding this.
There was also an opportunity for the young people to ask Katie about the Violin and about who the piece was by and what sort of era this might have been composed in. Finding out that Violinists can play lots of different styles such as Jazz, Folk and Pop not just Classical music, was really quite surprising for the group.
We then talked about how an Arts organisation might be structured, this is a really key part to the Arts Award and the goals of Better Learners, Better Workers, because the idea is to help young people understand the creative sector, so that they know what might be available to them. Fraser, who was running the session, explained that Katie for example, is a talented Violinist but also helps to run Music in the Round so has a very varied job, from performance to running a music series. Within the creative sector, it can difficult to pin-point one exact job and role someone might be doing as a result of studying a certain subject, let’s take music for example. This can be confusing and therefore off-putting for many young people because they don’t get opportunities like today, to find out that there is actually a wealth of jobs out there, it’s just these roles can take on many forms and require a range of skills. Arts award provides opportunities to build these skills and broadens young people’s career choices.
During the session we looked at the specific roles within Music in the Round, giving each person in the group one of the job titles to explore. The group discovered how each role interacts with one another and what sort of responsibilities would be involved. For example, the Artistic Director was obviously in charge of finding the artists and music they wanted in the concert series but this also entailed understanding what audiences want as well their own needs. So, as we were researching our roles, the artistic director for the day came round and asked us what we would like to see in the next concert.
Within one Arts Award session this group were able to hear an outstanding performance by a professional musician, interview them about their instrument and programme, learn how to express their thoughts about a performance and review this. They got to explore the jobs available within an arts organisation and talk to their employees first-hand about what it is like to work there. This is an amazing opportunity for young people and not only are they gaining their Arts Award, which in itself is a nationally recognised qualification, they are learning all about what it takes to work within the creative industries, which is so often ignored at careers talks in schools. Programmes like Better Learners, Better Workers help to improve young people’s employability and work experience but also give them the chance to explore this wonderful and diverse industry.
Fraser’s session was really engaging and much enjoyed by all cultural ambassadors that attended. Thanks for letting us be there and experience first-hand an Arts Award workshop with Music in the Round and the Arts and Cultural Ambassadors.
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