Sponsored contentFind out more
Funded by broadcasters, SVoDs and indies, the USF is a unique effort to ensure the sector has the skills it needs
The Unscripted TV Skills Fund (USF) launched in June 2021 as a collaborative, industry-led approach to transform investment in the workforce for unscripted television. It was designed to future-proof the sector by combining investment from broadcasters, streamers and production companies for the first time.
The fund is unique because it receives equal contributions from production companies and broadcasters/SVoDs. A small percentage, based on the value of each unscripted programme commissioned, provides the investment needed to address the aims of the fund.
Founding partners BBC, Channel 4, Sky, Discovery UK and A+E Networks UK have been joined by Channel 5, Netflix, Amazon and ITV. The number of indies contributing to the fund has grown from 124 in the first year to more than 220 in year two.
In a little over 20 months, the fund has already begun to deliver on its mission to boost the availability of skilled crew across the UK through targeted training.
The fund’s investments are decided by those directly making and commissioning unscripted content. Various working groups and a broadcaster/streamer-led steering group discuss where action is most required and direct funds to address these areas.
ScreenSkills, which manages the fund, undertakes skills research to help inform these decisions, with final annual priorities based on a holistic approach considering what has already been funded, where further intervention is needed, where gaps remain, and where we can show evidence of impact and successful outcomes from training.
It’s through this collaboration that the fund can focus on meeting the needs of unscripted commissioners and producers by investing in training programmes that address agreed areas of attention and feed back into the sector’s workforce.
One such area is in production management, where the USF has committed to a range of training initiatives for all career stages. In the past two years, the fund has supported a 12-month production co-ordinator training programme; a producer pathway programme for those facing barriers to career advancement; a production secretary pilot programme, which is being scaled up in 2023/24; and a production manager programme, which kicks off this month.
Some 45% of participants on the production co-ordinator programme were transferers from outside the industry, or from other areas of TV.
Head of unscripted and children’s TV, ScreenSkills
The achievements of the Unscripted TV Skills Fund in its first 20 months have been fantastic. The number of broadcasters and streamers joining has doubled, as has the number of production companies. The generosity shown by industry professionals in giving their time and expertise is impressive.
To date we have given 506 people training to support career progression and development in their chosen field. We have also welcomed 2,922 people to our free online short courses.
To all those who contribute to the fund or give their time to work with us, thank you! We are looking forward to working with you in the year ahead.
Hannah Gosney of Media Career Advice, who delivered the programme, says: “ScreenSkills recognised that we must look outside of the industry for those with transferable skills to address the huge production management skills shortage. This has resulted in us training and providing placements to delegates transferring from industries such as retail, events, hospitality and travel, as well as those returning to work after a break.”
The renowned ScreenSkills series producer programme returns for a sixth year to provide tailored training and networking opportunities to those based in the nations and regions looking to become series producers.
Delivered by Glasgow training provider TRC, the programme underlines the USF’s commitment to invest at least half of the fund in support of people living and working outside London, and to working with a growing number of training providers based in the nations and regions.
Ahead of the eight-month-long programme, some of those accepted spoke about what drove them to take part. Among the comments were: “Although our industry is huge, we tend to stick to our own patch, be it geographical or format. Bringing the nations and regions together in this supportive and creative environment is invaluable.”
“As freelancers, we don’t have an HR department to help with training and career progression, so these programmes are vital in supporting us.”
“Fostering communities of programmemakers, improving on production knowledge and giving a confidence boost will ripple through to improve working standards and the TV we make. A regional programme such as this is much needed in making it a level playing field of opportunities out there.” Another area of focus is post-production.
A successful edit assistant/tech operator scheme ran last year, bringing 42 new people into the sector. Salford-based provider The Pipeline delivered the training and was able to use extensive outreach to ensure a diverse group of beneficiaries. Following a competitive tender process, the programme will return in an expanded format later this year.
The USF has also invested in a junior editor step-up programme. The project will help 20 people step up to junior editor positions, with the benefit of backfilling their roles to bring new people into an often overlooked area.
The development researcher training, which ran in 2022, delivered by Midlands-based Mission Accomplished, trained a new generation of development researchers.
Participants met with commissioners and left with their own portfolio of unscripted ideas.
As with all USF training, the emphasis was on local delivery from across the UK.
North Shields local Vic Cook was part of the cohort and spoke about how the programme’s direct ties to the industry were invaluable. “My tutor was brilliant, she had heaps of experience and helped me develop ideas. I needed that boost of confidence from people already in the industry to look at my stuff and say, ‘Yes this is good enough’, and steer me in the right direction.”
Cook is one of the 80% from outside London who benefited from USF training in the first year of the fund.
Alongside the training to support job role shortages, the USF delivers a comprehensive range of short courses. They are open to both freelancers and staff and are scheduled at various times over a month, making it easier for people to embed training into their working lives.
Grouped into three strands – Step Up, Your Life at Work and Mind Your Business – the courses represent the fund’s commitment to offer free, flexible and accessible training to those making unscripted TV across the UK.
“I was happy to share my experience and guidance in what can be a tricky role”
Former factual TV producer Catherine Peters turned to the short courses when she was looking to reconnect with TV after taking a break from the industry. She says: “When you’re busy working, these online courses are manageable and accessible. I was amazed by the range of courses on offer”.
More than 40 trainers help to deliver the short courses. All have direct industry experience or area expertise – and many would not have considered themselves a trainer before approaching us.
Laetitia Nneke, alumna of the series producer programme, now delivers training as part of the short course slate: “Duty of care and welfare have rightly become a considerable talking point in the industry so I was happy to share my experience and guidance in what can often be a tricky role within production,” she says.