What Other Dwindling Skillsets Threaten Arts and Culture?

Last August, I called attention to the dwindling number of qualified piano tuners posing a threat to arts organizations’ ability to host concerts.  Along those same lines, Artsjournal.com posted a story last week about the shortage of engineers posing a threat to the continued operation of public radio stations. Where radio stations used to have 4-5 engineers in their employ, now they are lucky to have more than one according to Dave Edwards, the author of the piece.

The United States is projected to require 5,100 broadcast engineers over the next decade due to the retirement of 6,200 existing professionals. This anticipated shortage is particularly pronounced in the RF (Radio Frequency) knowledge domain. Factors contributing to the absence of new entrants include:

  • The allure of competing technical fields offers higher pay and more straightforward work conditions.
  • Broadcast engineering requires a broad knowledge base.
  • There is a need for more awareness among major stakeholders.

Among the things Edwards suggests are breaking out the skillsets required into more specialized areas. For example, making Radio Frequency (RF) engineering, Internet Broadcast engineering, and Office Internet Engineering into separate roles versus seeking someone versed in Radio and Broadcast Internet or Broadcast and Office Internet to fulfill a single role. Separating these broadens the pool of qualified people and ensuring people don’t get burned out trying to juggle too many tasks. Likewise, some of tasks can be outsourced while leaving internal staff to concentrate on crucial work only someone who knows broadcast regulations and troubleshooting specialized equipment can perform.

Reading stories about diminishing numbers of piano tuners and broadcast engineers makes me wonder what other important, but overlooked skillsets readers have identified as threatened?  Many of these roles don’t seem replaceable by AI. In some cases, these are the guys making sure the AI is functioning.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


2 thoughts on “What Other Dwindling Skillsets Threaten Arts and Culture?”

  1. Another issues for piano tuners: as more individuals and organizations shift to digital pianos, which don’t require tuning and are thus cheaper in the long run, there is less day-to-day work available to them. Will major concert halls still have beautiful grand pianos? Of course. But the tuner who has seen the drop in bookings may not recommend the field to his daughter or have an apprentice.

    • I sort of feel vindicated by asking this question because one of our partner venues in the region sent out an email asking about piano technicians and pricing this morning. Totally unrelated to my post. It sparked a big conversation about cost and availability.


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