You may have missed it and I am surprised that no one is screaming it from the rooftops but last week Creative and Cultural Skills in association with BIS revealed the result s of the first comprehensive study to define and measure the heritage craft sector in England.
The results have had me turning cartwheels. At last we have some data to make people sit up and take notice. Both you and I know that as individual businesses we may be small but together we are GRRRRREAT and the research proves it.
The full report can be found here but it is 144 pages long and in small text so I have distilled some highlights for you to drop into as many conversations as you can over the coming days and weeks.
The heritage craft sector employs nearly 210,000 people with up to a further 112,000 who work on an ad hoc basis in around 85,000 businesses. Some 96% of these businesses employ 10 people or fewer and 78% of them are classed one man/woman bands.
They estimate that 81% of us are using our crafting skills for the majority of our working day producing more than £10.8 billion in turnover in England alone. This adds £4.4bn value to the economy each year. The average business earns £65,000 which is £12,000 below the VAT threshold and those of us who work in textiles, clay, metal and paint have the biggest turnover. And even in these recessionary times 34% expect some growth in the next 10 years which is a very optimistic outlook for us.
The research suggests that more men work in this sector than women but that isn't our experience to date. What does ring true though is that about a third of new entrants to craft jobs are between 35 and 49 and this age group also makes up a third of those who have been in the sector for one to five years. Reinforcing what we know anecdotally: many of us change career to use our craft skills later in life. Although there are concerns about interesting younger people in developing heritage craft skills, this does suggest that people are bringing a range of additional experience and training to craft businesses.
Over all the report describes a vibrant, economically significant sector. So next time someone suggests that it must be lovely being creative or that you really have a hobby rather than a business, you might want to mention a few facts.