Conservatoires point way to economic growth

Anthony Bowne

Much has been said and written about the requirement for higher education to support science, technology, engineering and maths in order to help Britain's economy recover and grow. Against this backdrop - and advocacy of the so-called 'harder' subjects - the value of the creative industries to the economy seems easily overlooked. However, arts and culture provide over two million jobs, contribute £60bn to the UK economy every year and recent figures show that tourists bring over £80bn to the economy through their engagement with the arts.

So the role of specialist higher education institutions, like Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, is vital in helping to create a balanced economy and contributing to economic growth. For some institutions supporting the creative industries, this can be challenging - not least in terms of funding - but as the UK's only music and contemporary dance conservatoire, we have developed a business model that is clearly making its mark by helping students succeed, improving Britain's economy grow, and assisting local communities so they may prosper.

We foster the musicians and dancer artists of the future, while operating in a sector that fuels the creative industries and generates jobs in one of the fastest growing parts of the economy. We engage young people in music and dance from the ages of two to 19 through Junior Trinity and the Laban Centre for Advanced Training. In an average week more than 600 young people take part in dance classes at Trinity Laban and a further 350 in music-related activities.  As part of these performances, and just prior to the performance of Surrogate Cities, Trinity Laban undergraduate dance students will perform a specially commissioned piece by international choreographer, Jeremy Nelson, to sections of Goebbels' Suite for Sampler and Orchestra in the Clore Ballroom.

Darren Henley's recent Review of Music Education in England referred explicitly to the need for conservatoires like Trinity Laban to be recognised for their prominent role in the development of a performance-led, music education workforce of the future. The Review has set the scene; and now we need to go a stage further. The creation of the new Music Education Hubs will soon be the main vehicle for facilitating progression in music for young people and developing the creative industries talent of the future.

At Trinity Laban, for example, we don't just focus on developing young people, we also provide professional development training for practitioners to help longevity of employment. Our new Diploma in Dance Teaching and Learning (Children and Young People) is designed to become the industry standard for teaching dance to children and young people. We also run a series of continuing professional development events for arts practitioners, with topics including teaching dance to older people, the early years setting, participants with mental health issues, and behaviour management. More than 400 artists, teachers and community/youth workers already benefit from professional development support every year, and over 20,000 people use our spaces as a result of hires by arts organisations, public sector agencies, charities, commercial companies and individuals. Such developmental opportunities are crucial for the practitioners at the heart of the creative industries.

We also provide residences for professional ensembles to experiment with new approaches to interdisciplinary creativity. We work with renowned companies such as Wayne McGregor/Random Dance, Complicité, the National Maritime Museum, and Royal Festival Hall to consider new ways of working. From April 2012 we will be one of Arts Council England's National Portfolio Organisations, working in partnership with Greenwich Dance to deliver an integrated programme of artist development and incubation initiatives.

What isn't so well known about Trinity Laban is the promotion of entrepreneurial skills to our students. These skills, developed through self-generated public projects and industry placements, are essential for the management of a creative career and to the growing employment market for leaders of participatory arts programmes. Yes, our alumni go on to become elite musicians and dance artists, but the majority of our graduates go it alone and set up their own innovative businesses, working on the international stage and creating jobs for others.

Employability is the key for many students and 98 per cent of our students - the fifth highest ranking across all HE institutions in the UK - are in graduate employment six months after they leave us.

The higher education sector is becoming increasingly competitive. Funding for conservatoires like Trinity Laban is under the microscope. Funding for certain core arts subjects is also under threat. However, we feel we have got a robust business model, with the right balance between our great heritage and the 21st century needs of music and dance professionals and practitioners.

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