I recently heard Paul Rummer, principal of Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, say publicly at a conference in London that schools need to provide much better advice to their students about careers in the arts - especially, by implication, theatre and performance arts.
A few days earlier I was at a meeting with Robert West, Education and Curriculum manager at National Skills Academy for Creative and Cultural skills (what a mouthful!) and Martin Penny principal of Stratford-upon-Avon College. Both were critical of the quality of information given in schools to youngsters by people who, they said, know little or nothing about the industry.
When, a year or two ago, I interviewed Tony Hall, Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House and Chairman of Creative and Cultural Skills he too told me that young people report all the time that the performing arts are rarely represented at generalist careers fairs.
So the same message seems to be coming from all directions - that careers teachers and advisers are selling performance industry inclined young people short possibly (probably?) because they simply don’t have the information or knowledge.
Certainly when I was teaching in a secondary school the drama department carefully nurtured and advised the promising students (but who knows how current their knowledge was?) while the careers people cultivated a blinkered don’t-put-your-daughter-on-the-stage-Mrs Worthington attitude and ignored them.
If this is a true picture of the situation it is very worrying. Jobs in general are hard to come by at present. Yet the performing arts aren’t, relatively speaking, doing too badly. Witness the encouraging 2008 West End attendance figures. And there is a skills shortage in backstage work. The industry needs more technicians, administrators, front of house staff and so on.
So careers advisers should be helping young people to make connections. If you like theatre and have a bent for carpentry then scenery building could be the job for you. Handy with a needle? Consider costume making. Interested in hair dressing? What about wig making?
Too often, it seems these things are not pointed out. Or are they? Perhaps I’m getting a distorted picture. So I’d love to hear your experience of, and views on, the careers advice you got, or are getting, in school.