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January 11 2010

Creative Challenges

Training needs of arts and entertainment industry analyzed

Only a fraction of the 20,000-plus who graduate annually from post-secondary arts and entertainment programs in the Empire State will find an employment match in the state.

Strengthening the link between employers, unions and training could help change the quotient, according to an ILR report about the industry which pumps billions into the state's economy each year.

"Empire State's Cultural Capital at Risk? Assessing Challenges to the Workforce and the Education Infrastructure for Arts and Entertainment in New York State" was funded by the Empire State Development Corporation as a basis for public and private policy discussions impacting the industry.

Published this fall, the report was written by Maria Figueroa, ILR's director of Labor and Industry Research, and Lois Spier Gray, ILR's Jean McKelvey/Alice Grant Professor of Labor Management Relations Emeritus.The project team includes Lou Jean Fleron, an emeritus member of ILR's Extension faculty.

Findings include:

  • Despite the wide range and high quality of educational program offerings, industry leaders express uncertainty about whether available training matches existing jobs and whether there are sufficient affordable training opportunities to enable creative workers to adapt their products and skills to market changes.
  • Employer and union officials agree that New York has an outstanding supply of educational and training resources, but many question the link between classroom and workplace: Does training prepare for existing jobs? From the workforce point of view, does completion of a degree actually count in the search for employment?
  • Costs have accelerated as education and training requirements rise.  Tuition at top private schools is more than $30,000 per year.  Few scholarships are available. Student loans can become a heavy burden for arts and entertainment professionals with low incomes.  Internship work is usually unpaid, which adds to the financial burden faced by students.
  • Employers of technicians note a disconnect between formal education for technical positions and the actual work performed, particularly with respect to jobs involving emerging technologies. New media professionals surveyed in 2001 identified better access to training as their most significant policy issue, urging training providers to work with employers to insure that their offerings reflect industry requirements. Video game producers surveyed in 2008 revealed that this need continues.
  • Management training is needed to help develop industry leadership.  Some administrators question the match between classroom arts management instruction and job requirements.

While 259,000 arts professionals provide a competitive advantage for the Empire State, many have unstable employment, low income, a high cost of living and inadequate support services, the report said.  One of three workers in the industry earns $20,000 or less a year and the industry's non-profit sector is threatened by financial issues.

New York is rich with educational opportunities, with 815 post-secondary degree or certificate offerings in the arts, the report said.  In 2006, more than 25,000 individuals completed programs in arts and media disciplines in New York state. New York is second only to California in the number of arts and entertainment graduates it produces.