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  1. Spotlight on Policy
7 October 2023

Channel 4’s “4Skills” programme: Driving inclusivity and growth in the UK’s creative economy

London’s grip on the creative jobs is loosening, opening opportunities for thousands across the nations and regions.

By Kevin Blacoe

Channel 4’s public ownership challenges us to think and act with public purpose in all our endeavours. We serve the British people without being a burden to the taxpayer, thanks to our unique hybrid model.

At the heart of this purpose is our commitment to serve all of the UK, and we do this by providing a platform for diverse voices and untold stories through our work on screen. But crucially, this also extends off-screen, where we offer training opportunities to underserved areas and generate economic growth across the nations and regions.

Since we opened Channel 4 Leeds in October 2019 and two “Creative Hubs” in Bristol and Glasgow, we now have around 485 Channel 4 roles outside London, which will continue to increase over the next few years.

Independent analysis from EY shows that Channel 4 supports over 12,000 jobs across the UK through our supply chain and generated more than £1bn of GVA for the UK economy in 2021, an increase of 18 per cent since 2019.

In 2020, we supercharged our training initiatives by launching 4Skills to find, nurture and grow creative talent across the UK.

Our 4Skills initiative is a nationwide training and development strategy aiming to create thousands of opportunities nationwide, mainly focusing on people from diverse and disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds who want a career in broadcasting. 4Skills is run from Channel 4 Leeds and delivers a vast range of training, development and learning opportunities: such as 4Schools, Channel 4’s apprenticeships, content creatives, production trainee schemes, as well as work-experience placements and a wide variety of career development programmes for people already in the industry.

In 2022, we increased our annual investment in 4Skills to more than £5m and we have committed to doubling this investment to £10m annually in 2025. This investment led to over 28,000 training, development, and learning opportunities in 2022 for people across the UK, focusing on people from under-represented groups; from working in schools to entry-level opportunities to developing people’s careers.

We launched our 4Schools initiative, a key component of our 4Skills programme to inspire 11-16-year-olds from less well-off backgrounds to explore a career in the creative industry.

In 2022, we engaged with 23,000 students, and expect to reach 35,000 students and 100 schools by the end of this year. We are piloting our approach in Wales, we have just delivered our first 4Schools session at a school in Glasgow, and we are on track to roll out the programme to Northern Ireland next year. We supported more than 200 paid, entry-level roles, including internships, apprenticeships and production training schemes. Our latest cohort of production trainees is in the run-up to the 2024 Paralympics, and the 16 roles are entirely for disabled talent. Half of our apprentices will be based outside London, while the “Content Creatives” scheme, targeting young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds, offers 30 placements across Leeds and Manchester.

We delivered more than 4,000 progression opportunities in 2022 for those already in the industry, ranging from bespoke training, to fast-track schemes to mentoring, working in partnership with organisations across the UK. Right now, we are running “Freelancer Focus”, a two-week programme of online masterclasses and workshops to support the freelancer community working with the NFTS and the BBC. The free sessions are designed to offer practical knowledge, skills and support to freelancers in scripted and unscripted content, covering everything from pitching to CVs to finance to well-being. Take-up has been exceptional. We’ve had almost 3,000 individuals sign up, with more than 11,000 registrations across the 20 sessions.

Strategically, we continue to play a leading role in the UK skills agenda. In addition to our work, we are an active member of the Skills Task Force, which the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and British Film Institute set up in response to the workforce challenges the sector faces, and we look forward to working collaboratively with them in the future.

In just a few years, 4Skills has generated career opportunities for thousands of people across the nations and regions and shown thousands of students the possible careers open to them. London has long held a powerful grip as the UK’s launch pad for anyone hoping to make a living in the broadcast industry.

But thanks to the investment and work of 4Skills, the capital’s grip is loosening, and our industry is opening up more and more to the wealth of talent the whole of the UK has to offer.

[See also: “Partygate” on Channel 4 should inspire a revolution]