I graduated from university with a degree in social anthropology nearly two years ago. Like many recent graduates, I felt empowered by my education and driven to pursue a career that built on my new-found knowledge and interests. However, when I began looking for a job in the arts and culture sector, I quickly realised that enthusiasm and academic achievement alone would not be enough to get me where I wanted to be.
As a young person, it can feel as though experiencing exploitation, through unpaid work, is a necessary evil in getting a job. However, for many young people the difference between a paid and unpaid opportunity cannot be underestimated. It is no secret that internships privilege those with the means to undertake free work. Even many entry level jobs require all sorts of prior experience that rely on unpaid or voluntary work. Coupled with this are the issues that people from BAME, LGBTQI+, disabled, working class and other marginalised backgrounds face in accessing the creative industries. These barriers often converge in multiple ways, which makes finding a job even more challenging.
The answer to my prayers came in the form of STEP. It stands for the Shared Training and Employment Programme, and its mission is to increase representation in the creative industries by opening up entry-level opportunities to young people from diverse backgrounds. There are several important differences between your regular internship and STEP. The first and most obvious point being that you are paid and at London Living Wage. Moreover, STEP provides an opportunity for real training and skills-building. I do not feel as though I am at the bottom of the food chain, resigned to months and months of making coffee. Instead, I feel valued for the new ideas and perspectives I can contribute. In other words, STEP recognises how young people and organisations can mutually benefit from these experiences. From my very first day, the team at Foundation for FutureLondon were friendly and encouraging with a genuine interest in supporting me.
I started work at Foundation for FutureLondon the same week as two key events for the organisation, with The Fusion Prize Symposium being a particular highlight. It was an exciting day of talks, workshops, performance and speeches. The Fusion Prize is aimed at cultivating creative skills in young people in order to prepare them to meet the demands of the workplace. It acknowledges that engagement in creative and cultural experiences can play an important role in developing skills for the 21st century workplace. As the arts played a formative role in my school life, I was completely absorbed by the conversations of the day.
Over the following weeks, I assisted my line manager, Amy, with a new artist commission for marketing. Working closely with our videographer and photographer, I helped coordinate shoots on location with our funded projects. During our visit to the Gascoyne 2 Community Lunch, we were invited to sit and eat with the residents and hear directly about the impact of the project. In a city where many people are living in isolation and without proper care, the lunch plays an important role in bringing people together. It was a pleasure to be welcomed in for the afternoon.
The New Year has brought with it new funding opportunities for local communities of Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest, and I am excited to explore the Community Engagement aspect of my traineeship and work with our funded projects.
STEP’s vision is for a creative industry open to everyone by creating a collaboration of creative organisations committed to improving young east Londoners’ access to careers in the creative sector and nurturing local talent for increased representation and a more inclusive and sustainable future. STEP provides participants with two six-month placements at organisations involved in the programme with every placement is paid at London Living Wage. The young people aged 18-30 who take part in the programme develop new skills, benefit from sustainable employment opportunities and receive mentoring and training throughout their time on the programme and once it finishes.
STEP is funded and developed by the London Legacy Development Corporation, supported by founding partners Bow Arts, Sadler’s Wells and London College of Fashion, and delivered by Create Jobs at A New Direction in partnership with Creative Access.
About Foundation for FutureLondon
Foundation for FutureLondon is an independent charity created to connect communities, the new East Bank and its globally renowned arts, innovation and cultural partners to ensure East Bank is London’s must-visit destination and becomes a resilient, thriving, world-class neighbourhood of local and global significance.
We’re fundraising to expand grant-making opportunities for East Bank communities and partners and facilitating creative placemaking, to support local places, learning, training and employment through arts, education, culture and innovation. Our vision is for a vibrant and inclusive creative East Bank, creating authentic engagement with local people of East London in the boroughs of Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest.