Wallace and Gromit: employment strategies in long lead time scale sectors

Monday, December 8th, 2008 - career management, career planning, project management


There is news from Ardman Animations that the producer of Wallace and Gromit has 35 jobs “under review,” and that in a statement the Bristol based company said:

“Every economic indicator points towards a hard year next year for all industries – Aardman and the media business are no exception. Accordingly we are taking basic housekeeping steps now to protect the forecasted profits for next year and thereafter. Thirty-five roles are currently under ‘consultation’. There is no doubt that a number of these roles will result in redundancies.”

You may hence be thinking: if Wallace and Gromit are in trouble, what hope my job? The answer to why Ardman need to make redundancies is in the last part of their statement:

“… however many new roles will be created over the coming months.”

The movie production industry has long lead time scales: think anywhere over two years, and on average according to most Hollywood watchers and reporters four years. The last Wallace and Gromit production “Curse of the Were-Rabbit” film released in 2005, cost $30million (£17million) and three years to produce an 80minute production – that’s $375,000 or two weeks to produce one minute of final edited screen production. The Chrsitmas 2008 production “A Matter of Loaf and Death” (originally to be called “Trouble at’ Mill”) for the BBC will be a new 30 minute production, which took 18months to complete.

The gain with long lead time scales for employment is that all the planning and hence financing needs to be in place before production begins; the disadvantage is that the timing of launch can be precarious and into unpredictable conditions, such as that of Europe’s largest shopping centre Westfield London this autumn into an economic recession.

Good and creative businesses like Ardman will survive: a new series of the popular children’s series Shawn the Sheep will begin production in early 2009, which will create new jobs; Westfield will also survive.

The key for the employee who chooses a career in such long-lead time sclae industries to survive and thrive is to pick the projects and resultantly employers which are well financed and add to their CV’s:

  • With long lead time scales expect to be contacted early by potential employers (as they plan their projects and pick up the required skills)
  • Pick projects and hence employers which add to your CV. With long lead and delivery time scales, your CV will turn over less, and choices will be more critical to always being employed and long term career success
  • Don’t be surprised when a potential new job doesn’t come about – in either the financing or planning stage, something wasn’t right. Better now than mid-project, which leaves nothing to be written on your CV except you are quite good at picking three legged horses
  • In this sector, I can not under emphasise the advice to NEVER EVER give notice on your existing job UNTIL you have signed the contract for the new job

Good Luck!

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