Production Park
20 April 2023

The future is live: why now is the time to invest in live experience talent

The live industry is growing, but so is the gap in skills and talent. We need to put our industry in front of young people to raise awareness about the opportunities that are far too often ignored or misunderstood.

Mega gigs from the likes of Beyoncé, Taylor Swift and Harry Styles. Game-changing TV production from The Mandalorian. Rihanna’s floating platforms for the Superbowl Halftime Show. Behind each of these experiences is a team that makes it all happen.

Working in production is about bringing ideas to life. It could be for live events, global tours, theatre, TV and film, even gaming. And the opportunities of how – and what – you’re bringing to life is rapidly changing. Our industry is growing and evolving; things like automation and technology are reinventing production as we know it, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. But the future is only as bright as the talent, and our industry is failing to shine.

As an industry, we are often used to being behind the scenes, but if we don’t put a spotlight on production, how can we show that these kinds of careers exist to young people? Most of the jobs that keep the industry going are not part of common knowledge at all, resulting in an increasing gap between awareness and opportunity.

It's a story that often repeats itself across the creative industries. Ours is a sector that, prior to the pandemic, was growing four times the rate of the UK economy; we contributed more to the economy than aerospace, automotive, life sciences and oil and gas sectors combined. Our output and ideas are world renowned. And yet, the kind of jobs young people can have in this world remains unknown.

At Production Park, investment in the next generation of production drives everything we do – from our own higher education facility offering specialist industry training, to a research and innovation centre dedicated to finding more efficient and sustainable ways of production. We want the UK to be recognised as world-leaders in live experience and entertainment production, but to even begin to achieve this, we need to address the urgency of the talent crisis before the gap becomes too big to fill.

A report commissioned by Unreal Engine in 2019 revealed the demand for 3D graphics and real-time 3D skills was outpacing global job market growth by more than 10% and there were almost 34,000 job openings where real-time 3D skills were identified as being in demand across Europe alone. Our graduates who have developed skills like this are walking into highly paid and highly valued employment as their first job out of university. And there are many more stories like this across the live experience and entertainment industry. The demand is there, and we’re doing what we can to address that demand, though there needs to be more recognition and support.

Of course, we can’t talk about the need to close the gap without recognising that this comes with wider costs – emphasis on costs, not cuts. Funding for training and education across all levels is needed. The most recent funding boost from Office for Students is a welcome nod to the importance of specialist creative and technical education such as ours but there needs to be more support to make the industry more inclusive. Any funding cuts will continue to build barriers that would put this in jeopardy.

Nevertheless, we have a responsibility to put our industry in front of young people and shout about all the opportunities there are. We need to work harder to dispel the myths and misconceptions around the validity of careers in our industry, and lift the lid on how we create those extraordinary moments so many of us live for. Most of all, we need to show that these kinds of careers in live experience and entertainment production are achievable – and available right on their doorstep.

Our campus has welcomed the likes of Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Netflix, Cirque du Soleil and the Arctic Monkeys. And it is all happening in Wakefield. Working with some of the biggest names might seem a pipedream to many young people, but here, there’s a range of jobs available that could bring them a step closer to turning the dream into a reality.

The talent shortage isn’t something we can fix overnight, but should be part of a long term plan to give our industry the spotlight it deserves, and ensure the UK remains a world leader in live experience and entertainment production. Production Park aims to be at the heart of this, shaping its future through education, innovation and collaboration.