MakingItWork: What We’ve Heard So Far

Posted: 2018-07-23 4:05:25 PM by WorkInCulture editor | with 0 comments

Photo: Participants at the MakingItWork Community Roundtable Kingston, July 5, 2018

Written by Lisa Fiorilli 

Have you been wondering what we’ve been up to this summer? Have you seen the MakingItWork posts on social media, and been wanting to know what that’s all about? Say no more!

MakingItWork is a WorkInCulture-led research project that’s taking an in-depth look at the experience of workers (including artists) and employers in Ontario’s arts, culture, heritage and library sectors.

With MakingItWork, we’re interested in getting to the heart of what it’s like to be a cultural worker or employer in Ontario. We want to hear from individual artists and creative workers across all disciplines, as well as from organizations big and small, for profit and nonprofit, about their labour force experience. We want to deepen our collective understanding of skills gaps and priorities, career pathways and growth opportunities, as well as understand how well our sector is responding and meaningfully acting on diversity, equity and accessibility needs. 

To get insight into these issues, our consulting firm Nordicity has developed an approach that has several tiers of analysis, including:

  • Analysis of existing data sources (like Statistics Canada and Census data) to develop a better understanding of the size and scope of the sector’s workforce. 

  • A comprehensive survey in the coming weeks that will help us distill the quantitative data on things like skills gaps and training needs from individuals and organizations alike. The survey will be launching very shortly, so keep an eye on our social media accounts!

  • A series of community roundtables across the province to ensure that we’re not just gathering numbers and data –we want to be able to tell the stories of the individuals and organizations who are making it work in our sector.

We’re about halfway through the community roundtables, and wanted to give you a sneak peek at the types of insights we’ve been gathering so far! We have completed our community roundtables in Kitchener-Waterloo (in partnership with ArtsBuild Ontario), Sudbury (in partnership with the City of Greater Sudbury), Kingston (in partnership with the Kingston Arts Council), and Ottawa (in partnership with the Ottawa Arts Council). While each community had specific, unique challenges (and strengths), we’ve been hearing some common themes that we hope to continue exploring, including:

  • Financial precariousness & sustainability remain key issues. We heard that it remains acutely challenging for arts organizations to contemplate things like training, talent development, retention, and growth when faced with financial precarity and a general lack of sustainability.

  • The need to ‘make a case for a career in arts and culture’ was also something we heard repeatedly. While this sometimes had to do with resources (a lack of relevant local post-secondary training available, for example), talent recruitment (larger urban centres with larger creative economies, or the nature of local economies, there is a growing sense that there is a need to emphasize that cultural careers are ‘real’ careers. In many cases, this was linked to the need to continually advocate for the perceived value of arts and culture more broadly.

  • In terms of opportunities, collaboration was identified as a key area of opportunity, both within and across different sectors and disciplines. There seems to be a building consensus around the need for more opportunities to support collaborative activities, like resource-sharing or networking across the sector to share best practices, data, and more. 

  • Some examples of the types of skills gaps discussed so far include:

    • The need for more diversity, inclusion & equity training.

    • Training (and other labour market supports) that target people who are past the ‘emerging’ stage of their career. 

We still have several roundtables coming up in Fall 2018 – Huntsville, Owen Sound, Thunder Bay, Hamilton, London and then back to Toronto/GTA for our final stop. Keep an eye out for those dates, and please do get in touch if you’d like to be put on the invitation list!

Not able to make it out to a roundtable? Have more to say? Keep an eye out for the upcoming MakingItWork survey to be launched later this summer. 


This project is supported by the Government of Ontario

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