What could the 2017 General Election do for the UK’s creative skills gap?

 5 June 2017

This is the first UK General Election in a while when there has been some recognition of the need to address the UK’s skills gap. Manifestos always address school and university policy but the assumption has seemed to be that there are not many votes in Further Education and Skills. It has taken the major disruptor that is Brexit to change this.

"We haven’t put in place a new future-facing strategy to ensure we build on past success"

For the first time we are hearing politicians acknowledge the importance of equipping our own young people to address the challenges of growing our industries.

And whilst I’m not sure any of them have gone the distance to ask, ‘What does education need to look like for our country to thrive economically?’ or indeed, ‘What skills do our young people need to survive in the future?’ at least the politicians are beginning to see the need for a ‘talent pipeline’ which purports to link industry, education and skills.

We need a broad and balanced curriculum to nurture new thinking and challenges 

At Creative & Cultural Skills we have long talked about the success of the UK creative industries - a theme still absent in most of the current manifestos.

Although it was a welcome inclusion in the Industrial Green Paper earlier in the year, and its importance as a ‘future facing’ industry which doesn’t hark back to an earlier era.

We know that the sector is worth £84.1 billion per year to the UK economy and employs 1.9 million workers.

We also know that it’s still growing at almost twice the rate of the wider UK economy and less is susceptible to automation that other sectors.

Decades before the rest of the world talked about freelancers, short-term contracts and SMEs - all the characteristics of new industries now - the creative industries worked this way, often paying the price in terms of access to training, investment and formal education schemes that followed traditional employment paradigms.

Here are the things that I’ll be looking for from our politicians:

1) Recognition that vocational and technical education are key

They are a key part of the mix of opportunities which equip our young people to play an active part in our economy, not just a back-up when schools and universities fail.

At Creative & Cultural Skills we have seen the importance of apprenticeships and technical education in bringing new and diverse talent into jobs in this sector.

Often in roles that are not graduate roles but which require practical and technical nous, training and experience.

Politicians are beginning to see the light but we must present young people with a sense of equal routes – in status and funding – to technical and academic pathways.

2) Understanding that we need to map out the available jobs in the creative industries

Including the emerging new jobs, so that young people in schools and colleges can see a ‘line of sight’ to a job, rather than embark on courses without proper employer-endorsed careers information.

We provide a wealth of such advice on Creative Choices but we need schools, colleges, universities, students and parents to use it.

3) School education must equip young people for the future world

And also respond to what employers across all sectors tell us they need.; young people who are innovative, problem-solving, creative and team workers.

We must present young people with a sense of equal routes – in status and funding – to technical and academic pathways

We need a broad and balanced curriculum to nurture new thinking and challenges. We don’t have it yet.

At Creative & Cultural Skills we see many young people who have fallen out of school because the current education system doesn’t acknowledge their talents.

Creativity and the arts are particularly good at fostering these qualities.

4) Recognition of the importance of the creative industries in building the UK’s future success.

We are genuinely world-leading in this sector. At Creative & Cultural Skills we are inundated with requests from other countries that want to know how we instil creativity in our young people – and how we ensure we have a talent pipeline for our sector.

Sad to say we are still living on the past: we haven’t put in place a new future-facing strategy to ensure we build on past success.

The Brexit challenge is real: we need to be thinking about how we invest in our young talent across all backgrounds, UK nations and the English regions. It feels to me that we are still a way off. 


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