International conference “Partnership for Creative Apprenticeships” (P4CA) organized by Press to Exit Project Space – Skopje

Text: Aleksandra Bubevska
Photographs: Maja Argakieva

How to network young professionals from the field of culture and creative industries and how to get a job in the area in which they were educated were some of the topics of the international conference “Partnership for Creative Apprenticeships” (P4CA) organized by the Association for Contemporary Art and Curatorial Practices ” Press to Exit Project Space” from Skopje. The conference was held on June 14, 2022, at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Skopje, with over 50 guests from the country and abroad.

P4CA is a transnational project developed within the Erasmus + EU program, whose goal is to apply new models to support quality and effective internships in the creative and cultural sector by building the skills of trainers and trainee trainers. The project promotes the application of the European Quality Framework for the apprenticeship industry and creative sector in six European countries: Great Britain, Poland, Italy, Hungary, Slovakia, and North Macedonia. The “Partnership for Creative Internships” project has provided training resources, mobility for international exchange of practices, and a path to confirm and accredit their competencies acquired by extra-institutional work in the creative and cultural sector.

With the final event in Skopje, PC4A promotes the benefits of co-creation and piloting innovative, collaborative approaches to delivering work-based learning through clusters, networks, and hubs. Hristina Ivanoska and Jane Chalovski, the co-founders of Press to Exit Project Space, one of the partner organizations in this project, were the first to welcome and address the guests and the speakers of the conference. They underlined the importance of such ambitious collaborative undertakings that can help create positive changes in the cultural sector in social and economic inclusivity and knowledge transfer for the upcoming generations of creatives. They also pointed to the need for the Macedonian state institutions, such as the Ministry of Culture, and the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, to collaborate closely with the independent cultural sector and work toward creating practical knowledge accreditation with the European Quality framework. They thank their team for organizing the conference and the Museum of Contemporary Art for their support in hosting the event.

At the beginning of the conference, the participants were addressed by His Excellency Mr. David Geer, Ambassador of the EU Delegation in North Macedonia, who expressed his support for this project and the cultural sector’s development. “The development of the creative cultural sector largely depends on the new young generations of creatives and talents. Because they are the leading force of this industry,” said Ambassador Geer. “The Erasmus program until 2027 focuses in particular on social inclusion, green and digital transitions and promotes the participation of young people in democratic life, which is a priority in all our agendas,” he added.

David Geer, Ambassador of the EU Delegation in North Macedonia

Trevor Burgess, the senior program coordinator of UK-based Rinova, the organization leading the project, said at the start of the working part of the conference that the fact that six organizations from as many countries were participating in the project was a crucial element in the project’s support. “This project lasted three years and was positive, encouraging, and collaborative. However, it occurred under challenging conditions during the Covid-19 global pandemic when many cultural practitioners were forced to stop their work. These people were the focus of our work, and in these specific conditions, we worked hard using digital communication. That is why we are delighted to present the results of our work today. The project focuses on workplace education through an internship – transfer of knowledge by the employer to the young employees. This model has been established throughout Europe, and our challenge was to transfer this model to the cultural (creative) sector. It was a challenge to apply this in six different countries with different cultural contexts and modes of entrepreneurship. In some countries, it is more developed; in others, it is in its infancy, so it was challenging to implement it. The project’s main target groups are cultural workers who work as trainers, tutors, teachers, and mentors who advise, support, and train young people aged 16 to 29 in the field of culture and art.”

A panel discussion moderated by interdisciplinary artist and educator Klelija Zivkovikj discussed the structures that must be implemented to enable a fair and supportive work environment. How can the training of young creatives be accepted in the sector of culture and creative industries? Answering this question, the participants Trevor Burgess (Renova, UK), Venanciusz Ochman (Arteria, Poland), Jane Chalovski (Press to Exit Project Space, Skopje), Janos Keresnei (CICC, Pesc, Hungary), Sophie Martel (Materahub, Italy) and Silvija Hilkova (RDA Senec – Pezinok, Slovakia) spoke about what solutions and proposals they made during this two-year project. “With all the intellectual outcomes becoming available to the public via the project’s website, we aim to develop new training content and joint professional qualifications for trainee coaches and trainers and to integrate work-based learning and the application of knowledge in practical workplace situations in the creative and cultural sector” concluded Burgess.

Jane Chalovski (Press to Exit Project Space, Skopje), Janos Keresnei (CICC, Pesc, Hungary), Sophie Martel (Materahub, Italy), Silvija Hilkova (RDA Senec – Pezinok, Slovakia), Venanciusz Ochman (Arteria, Poland), Trevor Burgess (Renova, UK)

In the second part of the conference entitled “The importance of non-formal education,” Denise Stanley-Chard, founder and director of CLOCK and the TULIP Peer2Peer Learning Ltd program, focused her presentation on non-formal education and social inclusion. She welcomed the conference online and emphasized the importance of this kind of transnational project, which she hopes will bring benefits to young creatives in the future. Immediately afterward, Aleksandar Klashninovski, Director of the first IT college in Macedonia, presented the work of the Macedonian educational institution “Brainster Next.”  He elaborated on the program “Study now, pay when you get a job” as an alternative way of financing the best students regardless of their financial capabilities. He also informed that in the next five years, the educational center would invest 2.5 million euros in developing quality and more easily accessible higher education in the field of information sciences.

Gjorge Jovanovic presented the work of the Socio-Cultural Space Center-Jadro, with a focus on their educational program. “Our institution created according to the principle of civil-public partnership arose from the local need of artists and cultural workers for a space that will create autonomous, self-organized contents that will articulate our urban, intellectual, critical, and creative capital of the city and the country. We have focused on educational processes for the past two and a half years. The last example is “Oko”: an amateur film workshop for family conversations and film creations under the mentorship of Macedonian director Maria Dzijeva, in which family teams composed of two members (child and parent/guardian, grandfather or grandmother…) were formed and through joint learning, watching movies, talking and socializing, each team created their own short film story. Our other projects from the sphere of non-formal education are the workshops for audio production, participatory art practice, contemporary dance, experimental theater, soundscape, as well as reading groups”.

The conference’s guest was the internationally well-known author and mentor, Tomorr Kokona, who presented his book “Successful Artists Mean Business.” He said that the word business is not dirty and that it is normal if an artist is successful in his career, he should be paid. But he argues that an artist should run his job like a company. “A common misunderstanding among people working in the creative professions is that they have to make ends meet and struggle to survive barely. But that’s not the case because, like in all other professions, if you’re good, you should be well paid,” said Kokona, who was a ballet artist himself, and now, with his method, he’s connecting the missing link between an artist and an entrepreneur.” According to him, these two roles are not mutually exclusive, but on the contrary, every artist should conduct his activity using the legalities of business.

Some of the participants summarized the benefits of this project in the following statements:

Janos Keresnei (CICC, Pesc) from Hungary said that an essential element of this project is networking. “The most important element is that we created a networking model, so we created opportunities to learn how to be a mentor to trainees, to find out what kind of competence mentors should have, what kinds of skills they should develop, and how to be part of networking to the mentors. I say that because we believe that the new way of education in the 21st century is networking, active participation, and commitment to learning within those networks. I believe that this project will also impact the general public in the countries where it is implemented because the participants in the project have relevance in their environments. Through our existence, operation, and establishing an entire network, we will share the knowledge in our countries. We can also raise the awareness of internship mentoring and education through networking. “That will be our next discussion in the Clock program, which is not an institute but exists through open learning networks,” he said.

Sophie Martel (Materahub), who comes from the city of Matera in the southern part of Italy, said that since this project is ending, the forms of cooperation in the future are being intensively considered. During the discussion, she pointed out that Matera is not considered a developed part of Italy, many young people leave in search of work, but thanks to various projects, employment, and career opportunities are developing. “Our organization “Materahub” deals with informing as many people as possible about what we managed to develop in Matera, which materials and tools are available, especially to young people. To inform them, we go to universities, high schools, and youth centers and try to raise awareness, and I think this is the main mission. In the future, we would like to work on improving the situation to improve opportunities and conditions,” he said. Martel. She adds that it is challenging for young people in southern Italy to find suitable employment in creative industries and support. Therefore they mainly go to the north of Italy in search of better working conditions. “That’s why what other organizations and we are doing is to give them support, better education – non-formal education that they don’t have in their schools, and also to show them the different opportunities to create conditions for themselves, mostly through practice which helps them discover their interests and what they can do. Through this project, we tried to show them different realities and bring them back to Matera and the south of Italy.”

Silvija Khilkova (RDA SenecPezinok) from Slovakia, as part of the project, created a mapping of what young professionals and experienced professionals in the creative industries need. As he says, this kind of project was significant and exciting for them because, until then, they had no contact with someone who addressed the gaps in the labor market and the creative industry itself. “It was beneficial for them to succeed in the market using the project results.” Everything we have achieved can be seen on the project website, and a pilot session is still going on. People who are interested in giving us feedback on whether it was beneficial or not can fill out the questionnaire. There are two types of questionnaires: one is about the expectations of people who want to go through the pilot process, and the second is about what we have created, which is helpful for us because it will serve us to continue the process in the future, which we have already discussed, but you know it’s a process.”

“We are keen to support the development and training of young people and emerging artists in any kind of creative career in various ways,” said Burgess in his closing remarks. “The project mostly deals with the professional needs of training, coaching, to support people with careers in the creative industries, to overcome the barriers I spoke about at this conference. The fact that North Macedonia was chosen as the country where we presented the final results and held the final conference shows that the level of development here has great potential. Sometimes it is easier to think that maybe everything is wonderful and arranged in a more developed context. Still, innovation is possible when you are in a process where many things are formed and created when the national-level cultural policy is reconsidered. When I came to Skopje, I felt that there are many opportunities and room for development”.

Over 50 international and local guests attended the conference. To convey some of the visitors’ opinions to the Skopje conference, we asked Iskra Shukarova, Professor of Contemporary Dance and Choreography at the Faculty of Music and Performing Arts at UKIM, about the significance of projects like P4CA. “Today we came together with the students from the department of ballet pedagogy – contemporary dance, so I get the feedback from them because they came out very satisfied with the information they received at the conference and above all with the ideas they would like to continue working on. They also made good contacts with the conference participants. Let us focus on the creative industries, what is offered to the young man after education, and how he can integrate, which depends on the real situations, but also on his knowledge that he already received in regular education”. Violeta Krstić, director of the KO-RA Gallery, believes that the conference was an excellent opportunity to exchange diverse ideas and initiatives to revive a different dynamic in the adaptation process. “Let’s get closer to the opportunities offered by open, modern systems and interact to improve our capabilities and ultimately raise standards.”