Creative skills development in Asia and Europe

,  22 October 2014

There is no doubt the Dutch do design well, and celebrate it well. It is currently Dutch Design Week, and Rotterdam was the setting for the sixth Asia-Europe Culture Ministers' Meeting, a gathering of senior officials from states across both continents, gathering to discuss and debate policy intervention and Government support for the creative industries.

Rotterdam is a contemporary city, mostly rebuilt post-1945 with an architecture which feels both industrial and beautiful in equal measure. I was there to speak about the UK's approach to creative skills development, a theme that we're advanced in.

I believe we were the only nation present with a skills council (more than one, in fact) dedicated to that cause, as well as UK Arts Councils that invest in cultural education in a variety of formats, and a multiplicity of agencies interested in the subject.

International gatherings like this always throw our own efforts in to sharp relief. My talk, which included examples of how creative apprenticeships are 'employer-led', and how the Creative Industries Council is an industry/Government partnership, was followed by the Chairman of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts in the Philippines. His take on creative skills development was entirely different.

"We need flexible workers who can generate original ideas, but also adapt to change, and respond to rapidly evolving environments."

He was focused on traditional culture in communities, and how creativity comes from interaction, collaboration and dialogue. He argued that consumerist society compartmentalises jobs and dissects work into specialist tasks. Specialisation, in his mind, equalled repression. The more inter-disciplinary we are, the more creative we are. He felt there was far too much focus on employment in their education system, to the neglect of the creative imagination.

Of course, the environment in the Philippines is very different to the UK. The north European states generally came across at the conference as being fascinated by the growth potential of new technologies: whether within the games sector, or innovations in design.

It struck me that we have much to learn in both directions. To focus on an employer-led skills system in the UK (only just beginning in real terms), and its focus on getting people jobs, is to risk a narrowing of learning which has the potential to damage creative thinking long-term.

Our imagined future creative workforce has the ability to be resilient, persistent, collaborative, disciplined (in the sense of being able to craft products, ideas or concepts to improve them), along with the capacity to imagine and inquire. If we consider the current demands of the 21st century economy, we need flexible workers who can generate original ideas, but also adapt to change, and who can respond to rapidly evolving environments.

At Creative & Cultural Skills, we support the principle that, if we want to see such behaviours distributed across the workforce of tomorrow, we need to model and instil such behaviours in our schools and training institutions today.

Not only do we need to look at the future job roles that individuals might progress into, but also how our education and skills system can supply the right kind of attitudes, skills and attributes that can support a future creative workforce.

These are the exactly the bridges we have to build if we are to support the creative industries and their growth across the world.

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