A sound design workshop for the Theatrical Workforce Development Fellows held in the Education studio of the Steinberg Center on Thursday, March 2, 2017.

 

Last summer, we concluded the second act of our two-year evaluation of Roundabout Theatre’s Theatrical Workforce Development Program (TWDP), an initiative that prepares young New Yorkers for careers in technical theatre. Act Two builds on our earlier research to identify whether the program is continuing to position its diverse group of fellows for long-term success in the industry. In particular, we assessed the program’s capacity to 1) help fellows attain livable wages in a gig economy, 2) navigate an industry that has historically lacked diversity, and 3) provide the fellows the technical and emotional support to build sustainable careers. Here’s more on the key findings of our evaluation.

Employers overwhelmingly agree that fellows meet the technical skills requirements of an entry-level technician. To date, 44 fellows have successfully completed the training year, which provides intensive skills training, and places fellows in internships at Roundabout’s employer partners. During these internships, fellows get a chance to practice the skills they’ve honed through the training year. Employers rated fellows an average of 4.5/5 when asked if they felt their fellow demonstrated the technical proficiency of an entry-level worker.

TWDP’s strong orientation towards continuous improvement has allowed it to meet the needs of a growing program. Now entering its fourth year, TWDP has hosted a total of 64 fellows. Most impressive of all, is the program’s 80% retention rate, through its four years, which our resident experts agree is quite high compared to similar programs. Since phase one of the evaluation, TWPD has continued to make strides towards improving its operational capacity by adding new staff and introducing new data management systems. These changes have allowed the program to innovate towards meeting the growing needs of its fellows.

Fellows are contributing towards enriching the racial, ethnic, and gender make-up of the technical theatre industry. TWDP’s efforts to accommodate the diversity of its fellows have proven to be a key component of the program’s success. As of August 2019, TWPD fellows are more diverse along gender and ethnic lines than the technical theatre industry. Though TWDP has made strides to help fellows navigate a non-diverse industry, fellows have continued to cite diversity as being one of the key challenges that have encountered on the job.

TWDP fellows are utilizing the network and resources provided by TWDP to get high-paying jobs in the industry. In June 2019, TWDP graduated its first cohort of 12 fellows from the program. During the final program year, these 12 fellows with leveraging their networks to identify their own employment in the technical theatre industry. Our research found that these twelve fellows successfully attained a total of 24 different jobs at private and nonprofit theatres, shops, and one-off shows. Our research also found that throughout the Transition Year, fellows earned significantly higher wages than other young adults coming out of programs like TWDP.

As we wrap up our two-year evaluation of TWDP, we’re confident that the program will continue to increase employment opportunities for young New Yorkers, while enriching the technical theatre industry with well-trained and diverse technicians. We look forward to continuing to hear about the program’s success.