Fury over Government ad suggesting dancer retrain in cyber security

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A Government reskilling advert which suggested a ballet dancer could retrain in cyber security has sparked outrage.

A poster for the “Rethink. Reskill. Reboot” campaign shows the dancer tying her point shoes alongside the caption: “Fatima’s next job could be in cyber. She just doesn’t know it yet.”

It is not clear when the specific ad campaign was released but the promotional image – one of a series which featured people from a variety of other professions – was used to promote the Government’s Cyber First programme, which launched in 2017.

The poster initially appeared on the website for tech skills website QA, but appeared to have been taken down on Monday morning amid the backlash.

Twitter responded with fury to the advert, with Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden intervening to describe it as “crass”.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman later branded it “inappropriate”.

Writer Caitlin Moran said: “I don’t know if the government know they appear to have recently created a “Hopes and Dreams Crushing Department”, but for a country already depressed and anxious, I would suggest it’s a bit of a “Not now, dudes” moment?”

Comedian Michael Spicer commented: “Not that you need me to point this out but if you have a burning desire to be creative and to work in the arts, do NOT rethink, reskill or reboot. Just keep f****ing going.”

Shadow mental health minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan tweeted: “Fatima, you be you. Don’t let anyone else tell you that you aren’t good enough because you don’t conform to their preconceived social norms.”

As the name Fatima began trending on Twitter, Mr Dowden was quick to clarify that the campaign had nothing to do with his department.

He tweeted: “To those tweeting re #Fatima: This is not something from @DCMS and I agree it was crass.

“This was a partner campaign encouraging people from all walks of life to think about a career in cyber security

“I want to save jobs in the arts which is why we are investing £1.57bn.”

Boris Johnson’s spokesman later told reporters: “This was part of a campaign encouraging people from all walks of life to think about a career in cyber security.

“But this particular piece of content was not appropriate and has been removed from the campaign.

“The Government recognises the challenge to the cultural industry and today the Culture Secretary has announced £257 million of funding to help support 1,385 theatres, art venues, museums and cultural organisations across England.”

The Government has been approached for more information about when the campaign was launched.

Last week, Chancellor Rishi Sunak denied encouraging workers in the struggling arts industry to retrain.

Mr Sunak insisted he was talking generally about the need for some workers to “adapt” and suggested there would be “fresh and new opportunities” available for those who could not do their old jobs.

According to Arts Council England, the arts and culture industry contributes more than £10 billion a year to the UK economy, with £3 spent on food, drink, accommodation and travel for every £1 spent on theatre tickets.

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