Career development in the management of performing arts can be fairly haphazard. There are limited opportunities for people to acquire knowledge or practical experience other than through their day jobs; formal training opportunities, particularly for those working freelance, often occur by chance – being in the right place at the right time or knowing the right people.
This is an ineffective way of identifying talent and placing it in the most appropriate context; it tends to overlook people from certain backgrounds who may not yet have acquired the confidence or networks needed to negotiate a path through a forest of half-glimpsed opportunities; and it is not designed to enable people in the earlier stages of their careers gain experience in different scales of organisation or different disciplines.
A network of building-based organisations in London – initially the National Theatre, Royal Opera House, Young Vic and BAC – responded to this situation in 2006 by developing a programme of professional development for talented individuals in the early-mid stages of their career. There were five Step Change cohorts between 2007 and 2013; 81 participants completed the programme, 61 arts professionals acted as mentors and 79 secondments were hosted by 58 arts organisations.
A booklet celebrating the first five years of Step Change is available here as a pdf (3.81MB pdf doc). This includes case studies of participants and lists of mentors and host organisations.
Step Change re-launched in summer 2014 with Bristol Old Vic, Live Theatre and the Lowry as Partner Organisations, plus ATG, Theatre Royal Stratford East and Paines Plough as Supporting Organisations. A further 12 participants completed the programme in 2015 taking the total number of alumni to 93.