The Arts Council England (ACE) recent suspension of advertising unpaid jobs on the ArtsJobs.org.uk website comes as a huge blow to young people who are looking to further their work experience within the arts industry. As a young person who relies upon the advertising of unpaid work to further my own experience and working connections within an industry that is difficult to break into, I am somewhat disappointed through this complete suspension.

Last week the home page for the ArtsJobs website included a notice that “due to the high volume of adverts for unpaid opportunities that contravene Minimum Wage Regulations we are temporarily suspending adverts for unpaid work, work experience, voluntary roles or internships.” Their message was furthered by stating they are working on “developments to the website that will help users to post genuine volunteering opportunities only and [that] stay within Minimum Wage Regulations.” but do they really realise the full extent of what they have just done?

The ArtsJobs website has been for many months now recorgnised as a valueable resource for young people (and for many people out of work who are ‘older’) to gain information easily, free of charge on opportunities through voluntary working roles within the arts industry. What the ArtsJobs website became was a place for organisations and individuals working within the arts to seek out people who are actively interested in gaining experience on projects, performances, work experience through internships, (the list is endless I’m sure) to a large audience who want and need this information.

ACE’s recent decision to separate their twitter accounts into paid work and unpaid work, shows the sheer demand for making distinctions between the paid and unpaid. Their naming of the account as ArtsOpps goes further to show exactly what this service was aiming to promote: opportunities. The suspension (whilst appears to be temporary as they improve their services) is without a doubt a dreadful mistake that is having a wide spread impact within the arts world and by people trying to gain experience.

A fine example of how the ArtsJobs listing service having helped to develop opportunities for young people can be seen with this very site. A Younger Theatre is supported by a group of 11 volunteers, nearly all of whom came to apply for positions to work and write with myself from adverts placed on the ArtsJobs website. As a completely unfunded website the lack of payment for writing is valued against the experience of attending press nights, reviewing shows, improving journalism skills and giving a strong sense of working as part of a team – this is valuable in an industry swapped with underpaid work and needing experience to work professionally. AYT is a place for opportunities, but no where near as a valuable resource as the ArtsJobs listing site is.

Naturally there is an important issue which shouldn’t be ignored: the fact that ACE are trying to deal with as suggested by the “contravening opportunities” in relation to the “Minimal Wage Regulations”. However it just makes me question how you can impose such regulations upon opportunities which are mostly going to be unpaid due to the nature of the work itself? With cuts taking place across the arts (see #artsfunding), and causalities such as Future Jobs (see our article here) already hit – the promotion of work experience/internships within the arts is going to be unpaid because there is a lack of funding for it otherwise!

Internships are valuable. Work experience within the arts is valuable. The ArtsJobs listings website for unpaid work is the most valuable resource for any young person wanting to gain experience within the arts: FACT.

Can ACE not see this? Minimal Wage Regulations should naturally be in place by organisations who can and should afford to pay the person involved in an opportunity, but the large majority of companies/indviduals advertising on the site geniunely need assistance by the army of volunteers who are equally eager to gain experience for their CVs. With the Edinburgh Fringe currently taking place it makes me wonder just how many companies used the ArtsJobs service to gain core team members in one of the most life changing and hardest festivals in the world.

Young people engage with the ArtsJobs listings website, just as much as those looking for opportunities and those giving the opportunities – they rely upon this service. Whilst ACE attempts to sort out the issues with “Minimal Wage Regulations” I hope they realise the damage they are causing through this suspension.

Until the suspension is lifted you might be able to find opportunities through websites such as GumTree (although I’m sure this is more full of ‘minimal wage’ problems than ArtsJobs!), GetIntoTheatre, or through watching twitter time lines closely.

You can read The Stage article on this topic here.

AYT is dedicated in supporting young people in the early stages of entering the theatre industry – if you have an opportunity that could further this please get in touch with us and we will gladly post it for free on the website. AYT also has a comprehensive list of theatres that operate internships that can be found here.