#8 Created National Skills Academy networks of colleges and employers

,  2 March 2015

In the last decade we've created National Skills Academy networks of colleges and employers in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, who are committed to changing skills and training for the better.

The National Skills Academy for Creative & Cultural set out in 2008 to create a collaborative education network, just as skills academies have done for other sectors.

The Skills Academy aimed to both join up awareness of roles and training routes from school to employment and empower the sector to shape its workforce through vocational training routes.

I joined in 2011 to coordinate this activity, as industry had positively responded with ideas about how they could connect to the first Further Education colleges in the network.

The Skills Academy is supporting colleges to be the change makers for how industry works with education.

So much has been done as a result. To just name three things:

  • The Creative Apprenticeship was piloted
  • Over 1,000 students have worked on a design challenge
  • Hundreds of tutors have undertaken employer-led CPD.

We started with 20 Founder Further Education colleges, from Plymouth to Gateshead, and now work with 44 education partners spanning Further Education, Higher Education and one studio school.

Skills gaps in the creative workforce 

In a time of high unemployment, there is a mismatch between large skills gaps and shortages and a sector that is over-supplied with highly qualified graduates. 

58 per cent of the UK’s creative and cultural workforce is educated to degree level. However, the majority of creative sector employers look for competency from relevant work experience as the deciding factor when recruiting.

The Skills Academy tries to address this, improving the vocational path from education to work through a number of measures, including: student live briefs, tutor CPD, regional Skills Academy clusters and supporting colleges to be the change makers for how industry works with education.

I have noticed, now leading our networks in the South West, Midlands and London, that the National Skills Academy has allowed departments within colleges to replicate the natural collaboration needed for the sector

A National Skill Academy

Let's look at some examples of the kinds of projects that come out of the Skills Academy network.

Recently in Northern Ireland the Traditional Trades Creative Futures project brought two colleges together to give students insights into different roles. Construction students were invited to see how their skills could be applied to the creative sector, opening their eyes to the prospect of a creative career within their reach.

In Scotland, working with digital agency creative director James Jefferson, students were taken through an industry brief to build and execute a marketing campaign. James's company Equator worked with tutors to help instil the lessons they had learnt, so students gained authentic workplace learning in a college.

Having a base for industry to shape training is one of the most direct routes to growing our sector.

Across the UK, the National Skills Academy Production Day series of arena and festival tours have allowed students to be inspired by the largest and most hi-tech environments the country has. Opening up the outdated closed networks, industry insights have bought students and professionals into shared spaces to start building networks regardless of background or location.

Helen Kingman, a lecturer at Cardiff and Vale College, said: "It's vital that our students meet industry professionals who can reveal the inner workings of their career paths and jobs. The experiences they share help motivate students by connecting them to the industry and turning their gaze outside the classroom towards their future."

A brochure for the National Skills Academy

This month we will be launching our first programme brochure giving our members access to new industry-led projects, from theatre right through to craft, including the first Creative Delivery and Training Conference for tutors on 17 April. 

At a time when we look ahead to a new government and skills policy, we think it's clear that having a base for industry to directly shape training is one of the most direct routes to growing our sector.

To find out how you can join the network contact programmes@ccskills.org.uk.

In the run up to our annual conference and tenth birthday celebration we're looking back at our biggest achievements of the past decade: one a day for ten days.

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