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Sarah Joyce on the Unscripted TV Skills Fund

Jun 22, 2023

After sponsoring a panel at Sheffield DocFest and celebrating two years of the Unscripted TV Skills Fund, ScreenSkills’ Head of Unscripted and Children’s TV, Sarah Joyce, looks to the Fund’s priorities for the year ahead.

This year’s Sheffield DocFest offered a great opportunity for industry members and colleagues to come together to learn about the evolution, challenges and successes of all things Unscripted.

ScreenSkills supported a panel discussion at the festival that saw freelances and employers discuss how the Unscripted TV Skills Fund (USF) has been able to support individuals and production companies upskill or find new talent in areas that reflect the industry’s skills needs and collective aims for the future of the sector.

It mirrored some of our own recent conversations about the achievements and future work of the Unscripted TV Skills Fund.

Since its launch in 2021, the Unscripted Skills Fund has adopted a collaborative, industry-led approach to help transform investment in the workforce for unscripted television. What it’s helped to achieve in that time is something we’re all incredibly proud of. But the work doesn’t stop, and we recently laid out the Fund’s priorities for the upcoming year.

Decided through discussion with industry partners and led by the Fund’s council, steering and working groups, these priorities are designed to directly target the areas where attention is most needed to improve the skilled workforce available to production companies.

We continue to provide pathways to those across the whole of the UK with a commitment in 2023-24 to ensure a minimum of 65% of those who come through our training programmes are based outside the capital. This is one of the ways the USF underlines its commitment to building a bigger, more skilled workforce across the UK.

Our short course training, available throughout the year at regular intervals allowing people to embed training into their working lives, continues in earnest with an aim of helping 2,600 further develop their skills and knowledge across a range of subjects. By grouping these into strands – Step Up, Your Life at Work, Mind Your Business – we’ve been able to focus on specific areas for extended periods. A new strand, Connect and Inspire means we can really shine a light on key topics of discussion for the unscripted tv workforce.

The support from our founding partners – BBC, Channel 4, Sky, Discovery UK and A+E Networks UK – as well as those who have joined us more recently – Channel 5, Netflix, Amazon, ITV, UKTV and S4C, and the 259 production companies who have contributed to the Fund in its first 2 years – allows us to look at the targets reached by the Fund in that time, assess where investment is most needed and develop training in specific areas to help us nurture and grow talent across the whole of the UK.

It’s the same committed support that has helped us invest in those programmes that have already proved successful, such as development researcher, shooting PD, researcher to shooting AP and edit assistant programmes. In addition, the USF is funding the highly regarded Series Producer Programme, run this year by training providers TRC Media. Now in its sixth year, the programme is underway with a new cohort of 22 people who will benefit from bespoke training, access to leading broadcasters and commissioners and one-to-one mentoring sessions.

It’s far from the only production management training supported by the Fund. We have been able to invest funds in targeted training across designated areas of skills shortage to build programmes in production coordinator, production secretary and production manager roles. Each one commissioned as a result of our relationship with industry and the ability to move quickly to respond to its most pressing needs.

There is a huge amount of support from the USF team at ScreenSkills for new trainers so if you’re interested in finding out how you could work with us as a trainer, email

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