Inspiring creative futures at Leeds Creative Skillsfest

Helping learners underrepresented in Higher Education (HE) to make positive choices about their future is one of Go Higher West Yorkshire (GHWY) Uni Connect’s key aims. There’s no better way to achieve this than by meeting real life employers, providers, and creatives. That’s why we took over 100 learners studying creative subjects in years 10-13 from our partners The Farnley Academy, Pontefract New College and Cockburn Academy to Leeds Creative Skillsfest on 20 November. 

The annual event, which is organised by Leeds City Council Employment and Skills and Culture Programmes, helps anybody interested in the creative and cultural sectors to find out more about their next steps and see the richness of opportunity in the Leeds area. It was amazing to see the broad offer across our region of creative HE courses, Further Education courses, apprenticeships, schools outreach, out of school activities, and support for educators and careers leaders.  

Many of the 58 stands had interactive activities. The media make-up demonstration for Leeds City College was eerily realistic, and it was unexpected to interact with a robot dog promoting Studio 12’s workshops! I loved that disability confident organisations at the event were marked, to aid inclusion for visitors with diverse needs. And I was pleased to see GHWY’s HE members well represented – it was great to see their stands so busy!  

I had a chance to network at many stands with organisations GHWY has previously collaborated with including Leeds Heritage Theatres, the Academy of Live Technology, Chapel FM and Tileyard Leeds.  

There were also a number of inspiring panel sessions – I caught the ‘Getting into the Music Industry’ talk. There were lots of top tips and real-life examples to inspire learners to keep building their portfolio of interests and take part in the opportunities available to them. 

It was a brilliant event for students to engage in. They found out information by talking to various organisations and students who are already in the creative sector. One learner from Cockburn Academy said the event, “was an amazing experience, sharing a range of opportunities and ideas which will help with my future.” Another said it had, “opened my eyes to the vast number of opportunities available to me in the music, performing and visual arts industry.”  

I’ve returned from the event with a huge list of inspiring contacts to follow up with for potential collaborative opportunities in the future. I’m also excited at the opportunities for Uni Connect learners who are exploring more about the creative industries! 


Jenny Scannell, GHWY Area Manager, and Alison Ireland, GHWY Progression Officer at Cockburn School (with thanks to learners from Cockburn Academy) 

Image: Lauren Gray, GHWY Progression Officer, and learners at Farnley Academy (c) Stephen Ross