Making the best of it
Because that’s what getting into the industry fundamentally comes down to: opportunity. Opening the door for the next generation and creating the space they need to thrive. This is why Lily James and Naomi Nicholl, previous Pipe apprentices and current Campaign Faces to Watch, believe the Pipe is so vital, because it doesn’t just invite young creatives in for a few weeks to benevolently offer ‘experience.’ It genuinely places value on the individuals that are chosen.
“We were on the Pipe for nine months. The next group will be for two years, which makes it an education first and foremost,” James says. “This means there’s a reduction of stress, competitiveness and a focus on actually growing your talents,” adds Nicholl.
Treating people like individuals, like human beings rather than creative faucets to be switched on and off at an agency’s leisure, inevitably means people actually want to stay at the company. Because retention is an enormous industry-wide issue, as Matthews acknowledges, “I think one of the key challenges is that whilst we might be able to attract new diverse talent, it’s about how we keep them. Making sure everyone feels that they can belong.” This extends to ensuring that the apprentices feel entirely supported by the company. Because, as Matthews adds, “don’t expect new talent to the industry to flourish if they’re put in the corner of the room with little support or pastoral care too.”
It’s the differential between the Pipe and other placements that James says is so important, and why it makes it so invaluable as an initiative. “You have so much more time to learn, to experiment, to get noticed,” she adds.
Broadening the net
The problem the creative industries still face is that of hiring like for like. In looking to the pools that you're familiar with, the people who agree with you or indeed share your perspective on the world, to fill the empty slots you might have. This, believes Matthews, poses a serious challenge, not only to those starting out but also within the more senior ranks of business.
“We have a challenge at the more senior levels as the industry has possibly not always felt like a welcoming place, rife with nepotism or recruiting to a ‘type’ over and over again,” she explains. “We need to create opportunities for acceleration of development and learning too, so we can improve diversity and inclusion at board level,” she adds.
Because there’s no good in opening up your company to diversity and inclusion only at the bottom. Change has to be led from the top and also influenced from outside the industry. As Matthews explains, “we need to broaden our net and hire people from non-industry backgrounds.”
Nicholl says that one of the best things about the application process for the Pipe was that no expectation was placed on knowledge of the industry. With such an open application process, she explains, “you get to show yourself off to your very best advantage.” James’ application was in the form of a short story while Nicholl’s was a chair that she’d made.
This way of recruiting is, believes Matthews, a powerful one in which the industry can push for progress collectively. This also means not pointing blame when things don’t go to plan. “We need to be on the same side, not criticising each other when perhaps we don’t get it quite right, and to be more generous in allowing our talent to move around to grow their experience fast,” she adds.