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Face of the Future: A Study of Human Resource Issues in Canada’s Cultural Sector

October 17, 200517 October 2005

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This report, based on a literature review and 175 interviews, focuses on employment status, recruitment and retention, access to training and demand for new competencies in Canada’s cultural sector. The report finds that “the cultural sector appears to fail to appreciate the scope and importance of structural changes that are taking place in the workplace and in society generally.” The report also finds a basic insecurity and instability in the employment and independent/contract work of creators, performers and cultural workers. Other difficult working conditions include “wholly inadequate remuneration”, excessively heavy workloads, transitory employment, multiple job-holding, lack of full-time work, and the absence of a social safety net.

The report notes that workers often learn skills in the cultural sector, hit a ceiling of wages, benefits, professional development and advancement opportunities, and then leave the sector for better opportunities elsewhere. The report suggests that the turnover rate is most acute for management positions and within smaller organizations. Obviously, the poor working conditions and high turnover in the sector lead to significant recruitment challenges. Training emerges as another significant challenge in the sector. Cultural workers are found wanting on a range of competencies, including contract negotiation, networking, evaluation, multidisciplinary competencies and international marketing.

The report also suggests that the use of volunteers is a double-edged sword, on one hand providing inexpensive labour, while on the other hand taking jobs away from paid workers and leading to an undervaluing of work and professionalism in the sector.

The report recommends that the cultural sector take the “necessary proactive steps to promote itself [and] to improve HR practices”. Specifically, the report recommends that the sector promote a healthy human resource culture, facilitate career transitions, foster an attitude of life-long learning, take advantage of technological change, support the needs of self-employed cultural workers, support the recruitment, development, retention and succession of cultural management, and ensure the inclusion of all cultural workers in all aspects of cultural sector activities.

The CHRC is planning on coordinating a series of regional meetings as well as a human resources roundtable to discuss these issues and develop solutions.

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