Only a fraction of the 20,000-plus students who graduate annually from postsecondary arts and entertainment programs in New York will find employment in the state. Strengthening the link between employers, unions and training could help change the quotient, according to an ILR School report about the industry, which pumps billions into the state's economy each year.

The report, "Empire State's Cultural Capital at Risk? Assessing Challenges to the Workforce and the Education Infrastructure for Arts and Entertainment in New York State," was published this fall and funded by the Empire State Development Corp. and written by Maria Figueroa, director of Labor and Industry Research, and Lois Spier Gray, the Jean McKelvey/Alice Grant Professor of Labor Management Relations Emeritus.

While 259,000 arts professionals provide a competitive advantage for the Empire State, many have unstable employment, low income, a high cost of living and inadequate support services, the report said. One of three workers in the industry earns $20,000 or less a year, and the industry's nonprofit sector is threatened by financial issues.

The report's findings include:

  • Despite the wide range of high quality educational programs, industry leaders express uncertainty about whether available training matches existing jobs and whether there are sufficient affordable training opportunities to enable creative workers to adapt their products and skills to market changes.
  • Employer and union officials agree that New York has an outstanding supply of educational and training resources, but many question whether this training prepares students for existing jobs and whether completion of a degree counts for much in the employment search.
  • Costs have accelerated as education and training requirements rise. Tuition at top private schools is more than $30,000 per year, and few scholarships are available. Student loans can become a heavy burden for arts and entertainment professionals with low incomes. Internship work is usually unpaid, which adds to the financial burden faced by students.
  • Employers of technicians note a disconnect between formal education for technical positions and the actual work performed, particularly with respect to jobs in emerging technologies. New-media professionals surveyed in 2001 identified better access to training as their most significant policy issue, urging training providers to work with employers to insure that their offerings reflect industry requirements. Video game producers surveyed in 2008 revealed that this need continues.
  • Management training is needed to help develop industry leadership. Some administrators question the match between classroom arts management instruction and job requirements.
  • New York is rich with educational opportunities, with 815 post-secondary degree or certificate offerings in the arts. In 2006, more than 25,000 individuals completed programs in arts and media disciplines in New York state. New York is second only to California in the number of arts and entertainment graduates it produces.