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How CHRC Developed

Over the last few years, the cultural community and HRDC have increasingly recognized the distinctive and particular realities of the cultural workforce. The community and the Department have worked in close cooperation to understand the sector's patterns of work and training, develop a comprehensive picture of workers in the sector, and address their needs.

Three major initiatives, closely related to one another and occurring over roughly the same period of time, have been crucial to the growing awareness of human resources in the sector and the evolution of cooperative means of improving opportunities for training and employment. Each of these initiatives played a decisive role in the process leading to the creation of the Cultural Human Resources Council and the establishment of its mission and objectives.

The National Sectoral Council for Culture

In the early 1990s, the Canadian Conference of the Arts (CCA), a national, non-government, not-for-profit service organization representing some 200,000 artists, cultural workers, and cultural organizations across Canada, became actively involved in career development and labour market issues. In November 1989, seed funding from HRDC led to the establishment of the Cultural Human Resources Directorate at the CCA. The directorate's purpose was "to improve training and working opportunities and the economic status of members of the cultural labour force".

In 1991, the CCA began negotiations with HRDC for funding for the cultural sector through HRDC's sectoral initiative program, which encourages all representatives, employers and employees, within a given industry to work in partnership on career development issues. The CCA established a Human Resources Planning Committee to guide the research and planning process.

Recognizing the immediate need for better training support for the sector, the CCA also negotiated an agreement with HRDC for a pilot program to purchase training for artists and cultural workers. A Cultural Sector Training Committee was established to administer the program - known as the Training Initiatives Program (TIP) - at arm's length from the CCA. With funding renewed each year since 1992, TIP has provided financial support for artists and cultural workers in all cultural fields to obtain job training and skills upgrading.

In early 1993, the planning committee and the training committee merged to form the nucleus of the National Sectoral Council for Culture (NSCC), which was enlarged to represent all major human resources interests in the sector. The forerunner of CHRC, the NSCC was composed of representatives from the major arts disciplines and cultural industries and producers and workers, including the self-employed. On October 1, 1994, it became officially independent of the CCA. Meanwhile, HRDC had launched two other first-of-their-kind initiatives in the cultural sector: studies of the sub-sectors within the cultural field and the Cultural Labour Force Survey.

The Sub-Sector Studies

A series of intensive studies of human resources was undertaken by the sector during 1993 and 1994. Working groups, which included members of the NSCC and the cultural community, oversaw research into the employment and training challenges facing Canadians working in the visual arts and crafts; audiovisual and live performing arts; music and sound recording; and the literary arts and publishing. Along with similar work undertaken in the heritage community (on museums and on archives, libraries and record management), these studies provided expert opinion from both workers and those who employ or engage them on the current and long-term conditions affecting training and employment.

The purpose of these in-depth studies was to obtain information on the structure, characteristics, and training needs of the cultural labour force. Undertaken in close consultation with artists and cultural workers, guilds, unions, associations, and companies and organizations which employ and engage cultural workers, the studies documented the characteristics of work and training in the sub-sectors; identified emerging trends, including occupations in which training needs are changing and gaps which exist in current training and professional development opportunities; and established specific priorities for action to address career needs in a concerted and effective manner.

In addition to over 100 recommendations particular to one sub-sector or another, the studies collectively identified the following key areas as priorities for action across the sector:

  • the high proportion of the self-employed and their limited prospects for appropriate training;
  • the inadequate availability of effective professional development programs for those now working in the sector;
  • the need for public policies appropriate to the training needs and career patterns of cultural workers;
  • the need for appropriate on-the-job training opportunities;
  • the need for more and better training related to technological change;
  • better preparation of entrants for the work world during their formal education;
  • the need to ensure equitable representation of different groups in sector occupations, especially women, native groups, the disabled, and visible and cultural minorities;
  • the lack of coordinated attention to human resources planning in the sector; and
  • Inadequate attention to issues of career mobility and retraining.

All the sub-sector studies recommended the establishment of a permanent sectoral council to coordinate the sector's human resources planning and oversee implementation of the recommended actions.

The Cultural Labour Force Survey

The third major initiative was Statistics Canada's first-ever survey of the cultural labour force, funded by HRDC to gather baseline data about individuals in the sector in order to develop training and employment programs appropriate to their needs.

Undertaken in 1993, this survey targeted 201,000 paid and unpaid career-oriented individuals working as artists, administrators, professionals, and technicians in the following fields: the visual arts, crafts, design, literary arts, performing arts, film and video, broadcasting, cultural education, sound recording, book and periodical publishing, heritage institutions, and libraries.

The survey is a comprehensive portrait of the cultural labour force in Canada: its patterns of employment, worker characteristics (such as education and skills), income, training, and the impact of technological change. Its results were released in 1995.

Designed as complements to one another, the sub-sector studies and the survey provide extensive qualitative and quantitative information never before available on a comprehensive and cross-sectoral basis. Jointly, they have proven key to the work of the Cultural Human Resources Council.

Over the course of the 1990s and as a result of the growing awareness of the importance of career planning and development, it became increasingly clear that a sectoral council specific to culture and dedicated to its training and employment needs was vital. To make this possible, the NSCC, using the insights provided by the sub-sector studies, developed a human resources strategy and a business plan for the sectoral council and sought three-year start-up funding for it from HRDC.

In January 1995, Lloyd Axworthy, Minister of Human Resources Development, announced the creation of the Cultural Human Resources Council and his department's provision of up to $1.5 million for the Council's first three years of operation. With the arrival of CHRC's Executive Director in May 1995, the Council formally began operations.

For CHRC's achievements over the decades, see Milestones.