Bristol Creative Industries Chair, Chris Thurling represents BCI members on the West of England Combined Authority’s (WECA) Regional Recovery Taskforce. This is a forum where industry views can be heard regionally and nationally, to feed into plans for economic recovery following the Covid-19 pandemic. Here is a short summary of discussions from the July meeting.
The Covid-19 business environment has shifted many into home working, bringing the additional challenges around remotely building new relationships with clients/customers, remote sales and recruiting new staff members. Businesses are finding working from home more than just shifting to video calls; for help take a look here.
Employees’ mental health and resilience is an ongoing concern, especially those with additional caring needs at home.
Longer working hours have been reported. Many businesses are tied into long term office rentals which are not being used, this has led to some considering more flexible options or even becoming virtual organisations. In co-working spaces there has been confusion over who is responsible for adapting workspaces. There is a growing demand for co-working spaces and work hubs in rural and suburban areas.
A clearer message from the government is needed on whether it is safe and advised to return to work.
Looking at demand and markets, a large number of companies in the sector have pivoted online where possible. Companies are looking at international markets that are further down the COVID recovery line. In television production there has been a move to the subscription models and away from the ad-funded models. With office-based working now not so important the South West is well placed to attract more talented people and new businesses.
It is important to keep remote working practices in place so companies are prepared in the event of a second lockdown. Companies are using the period of reopening to prioritise work that needs to be done face to face, and those employees not comfortable with homeworking given the option to return to the office. Digital Connectivity is an ongoing issue for people working from home, especially those in rural areas.
Publishing local R numbers would allow companies to make more informed decisions when making plans to return to work.
There is likely to be an influx of freelancers and new start-up companies as a result of redundancies in the sector. Provision of entrepreneurial skills training to help people create their own jobs was recommended. Other skills training highlighted was in the skills gap for software development and data science.
It’s crucial to be able to attract international talent so clarity is needed on visa requirements post-Brexit.
Programmes like Creative Workforce for the Future have been very well received and there is an appetite across the board for this programme to be extended or similar placement schemes to be introduced.
A flexible apprenticeships programme has been launched in the West Midlands and Manchester – is this something WECA can be involved in? There is also the need to work with the education sector on the provision of work-based training opportunities to students.
Any support packages should also address environmental sustainability and diversity. There are still huge challenges around gender, ethnicity, ableism and socio-economics in the sector.
The next WECA Regional Recovery Taskforce is in early August, we will update you on discussions and pass on your views. To have your say do contact Chris with your thoughts or concerns on business recovery, reference “WECA recovery”.
Bristol Creative Industries is the membership network that supports the region's creative sector to learn, grow and connect, driven by the common belief that we can achieve more collectively than alone.