Giving Compass’ Take:
• After surveying more than 600 students in Southern California theatre programs, they found that preparing arts students for the future workforce will require financial literacy training and budgeting as it relates to careers in theatre.
• What workforce training programs currently exist for art students? How can donors support these types of initiatives?
• Read about how arts education helps train tomorrow’s workforce.
The post-graduation years are considered a rite of passage, where emerging artists navigate crushing poverty, unpaid internships, uninformed financial decisions, and rejection to emerge as bona fide artists. People use words like sacrifice and bootstraps. You’re expected to work for free in order to demonstrate your work ethic and “make connections” with important people. These connections, we’re told over and over, lead to paid jobs. Just not yet.
How can we better prepare aspiring artists from all backgrounds to enter this field?
There are many interconnected solutions: a shift away from unpaid internship culture, clearer pipelines into entry-level jobs, and prioritizing efforts to make institutions more diverse and accessible, for example.
As Next Generation Initiatives Director at Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles, I’ve had the opportunity to research and develop programming around the idea of “workforce readiness,” or the ability of emerging theatre practitioners to transition from an educational setting to a professional one. Last summer, researcher Naima Orozco-Valdivia and I surveyed more than 600 recent graduates from southern California theatre programs. We asked them what career training they had received on their campuses, what they sought off-campus, and what training they wish they had received prior to graduation. We also collected demographic information and asked about their post-graduation career paths.
The results were striking. Overwhelmingly, recent graduates stressed the importance of financial literacy and understanding the economic realities of making a life in theatre. Contract negotiation, salary and payment best practices, and basic financial literacy topped the list of training that respondents wished they’d received before trying to enter the field.
Overall, the data suggest that improving access to career training—especially topics related to financial literacy and money—may help more diverse students stay in the live theatre field by providing tools for navigating that toxic “rite of passage” culture described above.
Read the full article about preparing arts students for the workforce by Camille Schenkkan at Americans for the Arts.
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