ANNOUNCING the Leeds City Region as the new home of Channel 4, the broadcaster’s Chief Executive Alex Mahon said the bid put forward “a compelling and ambitious strategy” for working with the channel on developing “new diverse talent across the region”.

A key factor of that is the Bradford Screen Skills Diversity Programme, aimed at building a range of skills, starting at secondary school level, for television and film of the future.

Along with new creative hubs in Glasgow and Bristol, Leeds is part of Channel 4’s 4 All the UK strategy, the biggest change to the organisation’s structure in its 35-year history. Ms Mahon said the three cities “would best deliver objectives to grow the production sector across the UK, build the pipeline of creative talent outside London and support increased investment - up to £250 million more over the next five years - in programming produced across the Nations and Regions”.

Bradford was one of the main backers for Channel 4 to relocate to the Leeds City Region. Complementing the re-location is the Bradford Screen Skills Diversity Programme, funded in part through the Leeds City Region Business Rates Pool, which will be led by Bradford Council and Bradford City of Film team in conjunction with Screen Yorkshire.

David Wilson, Director of Bradford City of Film, said the Channel 4 relocation, combined with the screen skills programme, is “a real opportunity to create a more diverse and dynamic sector for the future”.

Aimed at supporting people from diverse backgrounds to learn the skills for and forge careers in the film and TV sector,

the Programme will be rolled out next year, through a Creative Digital Arts Industrial Centre of Excellence providing training, apprenticeships, industry-specific work experience, careers information and advice, mentoring and bursaries linking curriculums with specific needs of the creative sector.

The Industrial Centre of Excellence (ICE) concept, delivered across the district, offers high quality learning experiences for students aged 14 to 19, with clear pathways into work, training and further and higher education.

With an emphasis on work culture, offering work placements, business mentoring, visits to local employers and career development, ICE looks to deliver ‘job ready’ young people, with the right skills and experience.

The first ICE was developed at Shipley College, where a Centre of Excellence for Business opened to students in September 2013. Bradford College later joined forces with Tong High School, Carlton Bolling College and several businesses to launch a ‘Centre of Excellence in the Built Environment’. And Keighley College, in conjunction with Oakbank School and Bradford Council, runs a Centre of Excellence for Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering, (CE:AME), to develop a skilled workforce of young people for a rapidly expanding local engineering and manufacturing base.

“The screen skills programme works on the ICE principle of building a variety of skills to diversify the industry and develop it further,” said Mr Wilson. “In the construction industry there are plasterers, electricians and bricklayers. It’s the same in TV and film. It’s not all directors, actors and writers - there are set designers, set builders, lighting technicians, special effects expertise.

“The programme will offer bespoke training for young people, offering a creative pathway so they can make effective choices for GCSEs and beyond. It will link with the excellent training already available across the Leeds City Region at colleges and universities, and through apprenticeships,

“Inspiring young people, we can equip them with skills to ‘lay bricks’ for the future.”

He added: “This is diversity in its widest sense - not just cultural diversity but reaching young people from working-class backgrounds. TV and film is seen as a largely middle-class industry, but this programme opens up a world of opportunity across our region.”

The Channel 4 relocation, which could bring 1,200 jobs and more than £1 billion to the region over the next decade, also capitalises on the North’s fast-growing independent production sector and, says Mr Wilson, will boost the already huge volume of film and TV production in Bradford.

Bradford’s City of Film team plans to develop work with independent companies such as True North, one of the fastest growing television and media producers in the UK, on bringing new and more diverse production to the district.