Making Theatre, Gaining Skills

For thousands of people struggling to get a job or an apprenticeship it’s easy to become depressed and lose confidence when applications are ignored or the job search seems hopeless. Making Theatre Gaining Skills is a new approach that has been very successful in helping unemployed people build their confidence and learn new skills. The full-time programme lasting between 1-3 weeks sets out to provide an authentic work experience based around the production of a short play for children.

“Employers consistently report that young people applying for vacancies often lack work related skills and attitudes which they need to secure and sustain employment. They are concerned that their CVs are poorly written, some do not turn up for interviews, others have not prepared or do not understand the requirements of routine or punctuality. These young people do not have some of the key skills and experience they need to compete in the job market at a time when they face significant competition from older workers for Apprenticeships and other jobs.”

Discussion paper on Traineeships: Dept for Business, Innovation and Skills 2013

Up to 12 people take on the roles of technicians, set builders, administrators and stage crew working to a tight timetable to ensure that all the elements are in place for the first performance. They don’t need to have any prior theatre or arts experience as the focus is on transferable employment skills such as task management, problem solving, effective communication and resourcefulness.  Because the main objective is to build participants’ confidence, it’s particularly effective for people with learning difficulties including dyslexia, ADHD, autistic spectrum and mental health problems. 

The people we work with have mostly left school at 16 with very few, if any qualifications. They failed to achieve their key maths and English GCSEs for a variety of reasons; poor attendance, disability, family break-up or a period in care. They are resistant to further learning because school was not a success so don’t acquire the qualifications they need to get an apprenticeship or a part-time job. The long period of unemployment that can follow means they are at serious risk of being permanently out of work with all the inevitable social consequences.

The Making Theatre Gaining Skills training programme specifically focuses on the transferable soft skills that employers need; ensuring that the participants gain a real understanding of the career pathways on offer in technical theatre but more importantly, equipping them to be able to progress to employment in any sector. Making Theatre Gaining Skills also helps to:

  • Reduce economic inactivity by helping more long-term unemployed people achieve basic skills in literacy and numeracy
  • Encourage people from disadvantaged areas to be more confident and pursue a wider range of career options, apprenticeships and further learning
  • Establish a proven and cost-effective new way of delivering basic skills that can be rolled out across the country
  • Support the particular training needs of people with learning difficulties to enable them to move towards employment
  • Incorporate learning elements required to teach Functional maths and English in an entirely practical situation
Making Theatre in action 053_editTheatre production training offers a range of tasks which a learner can engage in quickly. The concept works because the experience is both practical and purposeful; it’s much easier to engage young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and challenge them to work to a higher standard if they can see the point of what they are doing.


Making Theatre in action 073_editsmall The intensive work experience offers a life-changing boost in confidence because the participants work as a team, and successfully tackle a series of practical and purposeful tasks culminating in a professional tour. Most of all, it’s a highly effective way of providing unemployed people with real, transferable employment skills that will help them get work.

Making Theatre in action 053_editThe programme embeds literacy and numeracy so that the learner improves in both skills whilst undertaking practical tasks. Whether it’s learning about scale by making a stage model, understanding budgets by working out the costs of materials or constructing a business letter by writing a press release to the local paper.