What skills does your local workforce already have? What additional training might they need to bridge the gaps between their existing experience and the actual, specialized needs of the industry? What can you do to link the skills available in your area to the needs of the production industry?
Once you’ve started asking yourself these questions, you’ve started the process towards honing your skills as a workforce development professional.
Workforce Development can be defined as: “…an activity that improves the level and application of skills, so as to achieve greater success for individuals and employers…”
You may not have considered workforce development as a key component of your film commission role. However, if you believe that your role is to contribute towards economic activity in your area (through attracting film and television productions), it makes sense to ensure that as many local workers and businesses as possible can partake in the economic activity that arises from your efforts. (British Columbia, Canada’s efforts to build a local crew base has seen locally-hired people increase from 40% to 97% of the average production crew since 1978.) The hiring of local crew and residents increases the income of those individuals who in turn pay more in local taxes, and with sufficient work may buy a house, a car – all bringing more income into the region’s coffers.
The impact to your region’s economy will be quite different if the production fills all of its jobs from outside your area. But this scenario results in other types of economic impact, namely hotels, motels, rental properties and other businesses that support visitors (car rentals, restaurants, gift shops, etc.) It is important to note that in some areas it may simply not feasible to create a workforce, especially if a deep and experienced crew base exists in the hub of your largest city or elsewhere in your state, province or country. If you are a small region, crew may then be coming in from those neighboring hubs.
As film commissioner, you will frequently meet people who want you to help them get a job in the movie industry. The benefit of creating a formal workforce development program is that it shifts focus toward creating and developing organizations and systems that will help scores if not hundreds of people, and ultimately to help people to help themselves.
Once again, it’s important to remember that a producer’s primary goal is to cut costs so that the bulk of their budget ends up on the screen in the form of better production values. In many instances, extraneous and unnecessary costs may include hotel rooms, per diems and meals provided for crew brought from outside your jurisdiction. In other words, if it is feasible to build a local crew base so that filmmakers can find skilled people locally rather than bringing them from their home base; you increase economic activity in the process. Therefore, the more you can do to develop and prepare your workforce to adapt swiftly and responsively to film opportunities the better.
In order to create a workforce development program to add to your economic development tools, you’ll obviously have to research how economic and workforce development function together in your specific area and you’ll need to be aware of the political climate and how that impacts on organizational and community initiatives.
Secondly; you may work as hard to get one person on set for one day as many workforce development professionals will to find someone a full-time job. In real terms, this means that unless you’ve managed expectations, that person could be back in your office the very next day, demanding that you help them find another job.
While it’s tempting to leap at every opportunity, it’s wisest to move forward slowly and methodically based on clearly defined needs and objectives. It takes time to build a workforce – from several years to over a decade – and that is only if you have ongoing production opportunities.