10. Recommendations

This chapter identifies recommendations to strengthen the cultural workforce and better address data gaps.

10.1 Recommendations to Strengthen the Cultural Workforce

1. Continue to develop and support mentorships for emerging leaders and managers in mid-career positions in order to facilitate succession planning and to strengthen the cultural infrastructure generally.

Participants in the focus groups told us that emerging leaders and managers at the mid-career level often lack the skills, knowledge, and confidence to assume the responsibilities of more senior positions. Meanwhile, those in senior roles find time constraints and heavy workloads prevent them from preparing potential future leaders by passing on the skills and knowledge they have acquired. Successful transmission of knowledge and corporate memory is best achieved through mentoring. Mentorship and succession planning can occur only if senior-role incumbents are available to devote time to emerging leaders and mid-career managers, to equip them with the skills and confidence needed to enter into senior positions. Mentoring also gives senior managers the opportunity to implement succession planning in a way that helps ensure the long-term strength and success of their organization.

2. Continue to support internships and mentorships for entry-level workers in administrative positions in order to strengthen the cultural infrastructure.

Participants in the focus groups frequently addressed the need for entry-level workers—particular those in administrative and eventual management positions—to rapidly integrate into complex workplaces that require them to perform numerous tasks and assume multiple roles. Prior to filling entry-level positions, organizations should offer internships with access to mentors to help the entry-level workers establish a career in the cultural sector, thereby strengthening the cultural infrastructure.

3. Train staff and boards of directors on human resource best practices related to diversity, inclusion, and harassment prevention.

Given the growing diversity in the Canadian workforce, staff and boards need to stay ahead of the curve on how to promote equal and fair work environments and prepare the proper mechanisms to protect all involved. Being properly prepared to deal with issues after the fact is no longer enough. Getting ahead of potential issues and proactively ensuring a safe and inclusive work environment for all has become a must. Training and resources are necessary to help bring boards and staff to that point of awareness and readiness.

4. Provide accessible training for technological skills and business skills across Canada to strengthen cultural infrastructure at all levels.

Based on the findings from the Conference Board’s cultural labour market information surveys, technological and business skills are two of the most needed skill sets throughout the cultural sector. Technological skills relate to the use of emerging technology, such as new software and new media. The deficiency of such skills is particularly severe among domains that are going through drastic digitalization processes. Business skills relate to tasks involved in managing a business, such as marketing, sales, and accounting—skills that are often required of self-employed cultural workers.

The provision of accessible training for these two skill sets is key to the long-term success of many cultural businesses and individuals. Although the required breadth and depth of this knowledge varies by domain and occupation, free online courses and reading materials on relevant skills should be developed and made available to the arts and culture community.

5. Support projects for creative artists to bring their skills to youth learning environments.

In classrooms or as extracurricular programs, the abundance of artistry and creativity in the cultural workforce could be offered greater outlets while picking up where public funding cutbacks have hurt arts and culture curriculum offerings. Many cultural workers are highly educated, and in a position to share their craft in education environments. Research shows that youth engaged in cultural activities perform better in general in school.[1]

Offering creative workers outlets to contribute to the country’s education, specifically in primary and high school environments, provides real access for students to experiential learning about arts while offering cultural workers a variety of platforms and environments in which to practise their trade, preferably on a paid basis. Arts-funding bodies could incorporate this as a requisite for any state-funded activities. Such a program would also contribute to the sustainability of the wider economy. Youth need to be exposed to arts and culture in order to one day become knowledgeable consumers who, in turn, also support the valuation of cultural work and output for future generations.

6. Help self-employed cultural workers access and gain admissibility to Employment Insurance benefits.

Despite a common belief to the contrary, self-employed cultural workers can access Employment Insurance special benefits by registering with the Canada Employment Insurance Commission. This lack of awareness could be addressed through communications by national, provincial, and regional stakeholders (e.g., arts service organizations, professional associations, unions, guilds, and support and funding bodies). Information, packages, sessions, and/or seminars could be prepared and disseminated to dispel the myth and provide self-employed cultural workers with the knowledge and tools to access the process.

7. Review copyright laws to determine ways for visual and other artists to reap the ongoing benefits of their creative output.

Unlike musicians who can receive royalties for years after a song is composed and/or recorded, visual artists and craftspeople do not have access to royalties. In other words, a painting sold today for $500 and resold two years later for $800 does not provide the artist-painter with a royalty on the accrued value of their art. A review of copyright laws could help determine ways for visual and other artists to receive ongoing benefits from their creative output.

8. Conduct a survey and study of the necessary skill sets that volunteers need to bring to organizations.

The generous contribution from volunteers is key to the success of many not-for-profit cultural organizations. In fact, cultural volunteers, on average, contribute more hours than volunteers in any other type of organization.[2] On top of that, cultural workers are generally more committed to their volunteer engagement, sticking with the same organization for a relatively long period of time.[3]

It is worth noting, however, that the activities volunteers commonly participate in—such as sitting as a member of a committee or board, organizing activities and events, and performing administrative work—often require business, communication, and organizational skills that volunteers do not necessarily possess. It would be beneficial to identify the most necessary skill sets and then provide appropriate training to help volunteers develop and improve these skills sets. The training, in turn, would provide additional incentives for individuals who wish to acquire such skills to devote more time to volunteering.

9. Value volunteer hours

This labour market information study has noted the endemic need for volunteers and unpaid hours to keep cultural organizations afloat. Following the survey of necessary skills (recommendation #8 in this list) brought in by unpaid labour, a pilot program could be run to value the necessary work that is done for free by recognizing these contributions by skilled workers. Employers could issue a type of T-slip to recognize volunteer hours, something that could supplement paid insurable employment to help provide a safety net and allow cultural workers to qualify for Employment Insurance when paid gigs dry up.

Such a program would exclude the engagements and duties of boards of directors. It would include skilled labour contributions scaled at market value, such as managerial contributions (e.g., oversight and/or executive decision-making), specialized work (e.g., museum curator, recording artists, lighting specialist, accounting and legal experts), and general administration and services (e.g., bookkeeping, marketing, news-list administrator). It would also include other less skilled support work, such as theatre ushers, stagehands, and snack bar attendants.

10. Create a national artists registry.

As a support mechanism for all of the recommendations and their intended outcomes, the creation of an arms’-length governed national registry could improve information gathering and dissemination to and from cultural workers, businesses, organizations, and government bodies.

10.2 Recommendations to Address Data Gaps

11. Using the cultural sector as a case study, Statistics Canada should undertake a multi-year pilot project to assess new ways to collect workforce data that would fill gaps in existing data and better report on the gig economy.

The data challenges that emerged while this study was being developed support the notion that Statistics Canada’s current statistical programs are not sufficient to depict a full picture of the cultural workforce given its many distinct characteristics. Most notably, the working lives of cultural workers are often characterized by work in multiple jobs and on a gig basis. The census—the best available data source for demographics, educational attainment, employment status, and income—captures only an individual’s primary occupation (defined as the occupation in which the individual worked the most hours during the reference week), leaving employment in other occupations unaccounted for. In addition, while the accuracy of employment income data was improved in the latest census through the use of personal income tax and benefits records, the composition of income remains unclear.

Instead of amending the census questionnaire to probe an individual’s multiple occupations and sources of income, something that may also apply to individuals working in other sectors, a better solution is to use the cultural sector as a case study and conduct a pilot project to assess better practices in data collection. This could be achieved through industry consultations and tailored surveys that would accommodate the unique characteristics of cultural workers. For example, the surveys should allow participants to report all occupations held and the time spent working in each occupation, as well as income earned from each job. The proposed case study could not only fill data gaps in existing surveys but also be beneficial for future data collection in the gig economy.

12. Statistics Canada should develop a human resources module for the cultural sector within its Culture Satellite Account.

While the Culture Satellite Account provides an important snapshot of employment in the cultural sector and its associated contribution to the economy, there is considerable room to improve this accounting framework, particularly its employment statistics. Specifically, under the current framework, a part-time job and a full-time job are treated as equal, regardless of the discrepancies in actual hours worked during the week. On top of that, a seasonal job that exists for only a few months is converted into a fraction of a job for the year (e.g., if a job exists for three months during the year, it counts as one-quarter of a job). The employment statistic, as a result, is not an ideal measure of labour inputs to production, considering it’s a combination of jobs of varying capacity.

Moreover, because the Culture Satellite Account framework aggregates occupations into domains based on their nature of creative activities and outputs instead of the actual domain in which individuals work, the employment statistics in some domains are skewed. For example, actors may work in film and video, broadcasting, and performing arts, but they are aggregated into the live performance domain because their creative output is primarily related to performance. Actors’ involvement in other domains, consequently, is excluded, and therefore the size and economic contributions of these respective domains is skewed.

These shortcomings, however, could be addressed by creating a human resources module for the Culture Satellite Account. By using additional data sources, including the Canadian System of National Accounts, the census, the Labour Force Survey, and the Survey of Employment Payroll and Hours, a human resources module could serve two purposes. The first would be to provide a better measurement of the employment measures, such as full-time equivalent jobs (part-time jobs would be converted into full-time jobs on the basis of actual hours worked; e.g., two part-time jobs of 20 hours per week would be converted into one full-time job at 40 hours per week), total hours worked for each occupation, and employment earnings. The second would be to accurately allocate cultural workers and their outputs into appropriate domains based on the actual domains they work in instead of the nature of their work and outputs.

13. Statistics Canada should engage stakeholders in the cultural sector (particularly the various domains) to update and improve upon the nomenclature used to depict the sector.

The current cultural statistics framework was published by Statistics Canada in 2011. Many domains have undergone drastic changes since then. For example, many new occupations have been created as technology has advanced and consumer demand has shifted. As a result, the occupations included in the framework need to be updated to reflect the changes. Crafts and interactive media, in particular, are two of the subdomains that require a thorough rework. The craft sector consists of a wide range of heterogeneous creative and artistic activities; an amendment to the occupation list (and preferably to the National Occupation Classification) could be made to better reflect the scale and scope of craft practices. The interactive media sector has gone through rapid growth in recent years, and the current occupation list therefore does not capture the many newly created occupations.

Improving the nomenclature used to describe the cultural sector is also crucial for the proposed human resource module, as inputs from stakeholders in the cultural sector are needed to determine the cross-domain involvement of certain occupations. For instance, industry stakeholders could help inform Statistics Canada on a musician’s involvement in domains other than live performance.

[1] Canadian Arts Coalition, “Children and the Arts.”

[2] Hill Strategies, Volunteers and Donors in Arts and Culture Organizations in Canada in 2013.

[3] Ibid.