Warner Bros, Netflix team with ScreenSkills for UK apprenticeship pilot

Initiative aims to enable more people to join the film and TV industries.

By Michael Rosser 23 Jan 2020

Warner Bros, Netflix team with ScreenSkills for UK apprenticeship pilot
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Netflix and Warner Bros are to partner with UK industry body ScreenSkills on a pilot programme aimed at enabling more people to join the film and TV industries through an apprenticeship.

A total of 20 people aspiring to work in film and television will be trained as broadcast production assistants and as production accountants in the programme which is being supported by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

It follows approval by the government last July to relax the rules of its apprenticeship levy scheme – mandatory for all UK companies with an annual payroll bill of at least £3m – in response to concerns that it was often unworkable in such freelancer-focused industries.

Launched in April 2017, the apprenticeship levy requires companies to invest 0.5% of their annual salary bill towards apprenticeships and offer a participant a contract of at least 12 months.

But film, television, visual effects (VFX) and animation companies have argued this is not possible due to the project-based nature of film and TV production where few people, even on the biggest productions, are continuously employed for a year.

This has meant an estimated £15m of the total £20m contributed to the levy pot by UK screen companies each year is being unspent, according to ScreenSkills. Those companies will now be able to transfer available unspent levy funds in to the scheme. The UK’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is investing a further £100,000 in the pilot.

Under the new ScreenSkills Apprenticeship Programme pilot, the industry body will employ the apprentices, organise their training and arrange for them to conduct industry placements with Netflix and across the WarnerMedia group, including Warner Bros. and HBO, after initial training to prepare them to be “set-ready” for their placements.

Recruitment will start shortly, with apprentices beginning their placements this summer.

It is expected the apprentices will have the opportunity to work on multiple projects. Warner Bros productions filming in the UK include The BatmanFantastic Beasts 3 and season two of Pennyworth. HBO shows filming in the UK include Joss Whedon’s The Nevers. Netflix productions include The CrownBridgerton and The Witcher.

At the conclusion of the pilot, its future viability will be assessed based on completion, pass and satisfaction rates of the apprentices, satisfaction of the companies providing placements, and the financial and practical sustainability of the model.

The ScreenSkills Apprenticeship Programme pilot was announced today by culture secretary Nicky Morgan with education secretary Gavin Williamson.

“We recognise that more needs to be done to make sure the TV and film industry are able to take full advantage of the apprenticeship system including the levy,” said Williamson. “This scheme will also help test how we can support them to generate the skilled workforce they are crying out for.”

ScreenSkills chief executive Seetha Kumar said: “The screen industries are paying millions into the current apprenticeship system, but the freelance and project-based nature of much of the work makes it difficult for all these funds to be used. We hope this imaginative trial will stress-test how best to use the funds to train the workers our sector so desperately needs.”

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