I’m launching the Creatives Table in Toronto and here’s why

This year, I’m piloting the Creatives Table — a program within district-designated “low-income” schools to place deserving creative high schoolers into full time, paid summer internships within the start-up and tech industry. I’m looking for the city’s best teenaged writers, photographers, film makers, and all types of creators that may not know their talent is a job. And I want to give them experience in an industry that upholds the idea of nurturing those who have the ability to become the best at what they do.

Why?

STEM is great, but it’s only part of the story.

There are two omnipresent droughts in the tech industry talent pool: developers and diversity. The need for both is well known and prevalent everywhere people dare to dream of a product, business or service that requires code. There were explorations into the lack of skilled graduates, and eventually diversity, that one still finds on many university campuses. And, this launched an excellent push for STEM, incorporated everywhere from school curriculums to programs for kids to scholarships for women and minorities to countless online courses and even vocational learning companies. And that’s great. But now we need to shine a light on the creatives of the world and explore the lack of diversity there — in advertising, in design, and the tech space.

We know that creatives exist on both sides of the hardline that is income disparity. Good ones. Creativity happens whether or not opportunity exists, but it doesn’t necessarily flourish. And that’s what the Creatives Table seeks to do. Drawers, writers, builders — imagination is not bound by privilege or lack there of. But, creativity is not necessarily afforded in all communities and traditions. It needs a village — or, resources, mentors, and support.

I’m not going to bemoan the fact that the curriculum pushes kids toward academic subjects that can get them into a college or university, or the increased awareness of STEM that addresses an existing and future labour gap, while at the same time promoting inclusion and even excitement about things like parabolas. I’m just saying that creatives deserve to understand what great opportunities await them; they deserve to learn in high school what those drawings, or essays, or anything else they build can turn into with the right tools and training. The Creatives Table is a paid internship — but it’s also an opportunity to build bridges where none existed and create an experience that will chart a life’s course.

Pursuing creativity is not inexpensive. In terms of the sacrifices and decisions made to hedge a bet on your passion versus the immediate need of putting food on the table or pursuing a career that’s perceived to be “safe” or more “practical”, it becomes understandable why there is a lack of diversity among creatives, even if we’re just talking socioeconomic. So I’m not looking to change curricula or make my way into every classroom with a soapbox. But I do not want to lose those creators. The industry as a whole needs them, and that need will only continue to grow. I want them to understand what a career pursuing their creative talents can look like, and then make a decision based on experience and a broader knowledge of what’s possible. The Creatives Table is about offering a seat at the table to creators who may not know about the opportunity but possess the raw skills to do great things.

As excited as I am to find the kids that will join this program, I’m also looking for start ups that will ultimately make the Creatives Table a reality. For more information on how to join or help, please get in touch with me at lucy[dot]leiderman[at]gmail[dot]com. Please note there is also federal funding for small businesses (less than 50 employees) that covers the cost of summer job opportunities for students.

May 05 2016 edit: The Federal programme above does cover 50% of total costs for hiring high school students but the deadline to apply is in March. For the 2017 cohort, I will be reaching out to companies well ahead of time in order to meet this deadline.

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