The Disraeli Room

The Disraeli Room

Blog Post

The skills combination that can unlock economic growth and prosperity

26th May 2015

Create UK articulates a plan for strategic action. The industrial strategy, developed by the Creative Industries Council and published in July 2014, reads as an essential ‘To Do’ list for industry and Government in order to maintain the industries’ remarkable growth within the competitive global landscape. It celebrates but also warns that there are some things that cannot be left to chance or lie on the current laurels of success. Intellectual Property, access to finance, routes into international markets and a nurturing business infrastructure across the UK are areas of concentrated attention. Underpinning all these is the need for an education and careers system that inspires and supports a diverse, creative ‘fused’ generation combined with an industry-led skills system that enables growth in companies of all sizes. The Education and Skills recommendations of the Create UK strategy are key in unlocking future growth.

The recommendations’ starting point is an area where all the diverse sub-sectors of the creative industries meet: education in schools and careers. Responsible, reliable and accurate careers information is key for conveying the industries’ needs and expectations to those who may want to join them. This information should have the wider reach possible – e.g. via online careers platforms such as Hiive – because diverse talent is also a key component for future success.

It is also recognised across the industries that Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM), -creative subjects being taught alongside science subjects – bring lifelong benefits for future careers not only in creative industries but across the economy. Creative Industries are constantly informed and challenged by new technologies, so it is appropriate that young people learn the tools of decoding the opportunities that they can bring. Crafts education is also a part of it; as the Crafts Council’s Studying Craft report eloquently puts it: “Education and training craft is of wider-ranging importance: it produces makers of the future, prepares those with craft skills for the wider creative economy and beyond, and develops the haptic and creative skills so important for all young people and their learning”.

Developing craft making skills is interlinked with inciting curiosity for how something is made or how it works. We engage very young children with it but drop it from the curriculum later. There has been 25% fall in the numbers taking craft-related GCSEs in the past five years, and 46% decline in the number of craft-related courses in higher education. However, it is essential learning – teaches problem solving, develops agility with hands and creates the perfect platform for a discourse on ‘from theory to practice’. As the Crafts Council’s Education Manifesto observes: “Makers contribute to sectors as diverse as engineering, medicine, technology, architecture, fashion and design”.

Makers are embedded in the creative industries’ ecosystem, from fashion to sets and props, and from heritage crafts to digital 3-D printing. We recognise makers like Thomas Heatherwick, designer of the 2012 London Olympics Cauldron, but also  Artem, a Physical Effects Company for film, advertising and TV, who created many memorable objects for the opening and closing ceremonies, including the giant puppet of Voldemort. While viewing the V&A exhibition on fashion designer Alexander McQueen (Savage Beauty), it is worth remembering that McQueen’s career started as a maker, doing his apprenticeship with companies from Savile Row to costumiers Angels.

An apprenticeship – formal or informal – can be a natural entry point for some of these industries. Currently in Fashion and Textiles there are three different level apprenticeships with multiple pathways to jobs from Tailoring to Saddlery and Leather Goods. Moreover, these pathways can lead to satisfying and long term employment opportunities – these industries, unlike other parts of the creative economy, have an ageing workforce who is eager to pass on their skills to a new generation. Heritage Crafts is another such example. It is not surprising that one of the first trailblazers to be approved for the new Standard of Apprenticeship was in Crafts. After all, Craft generates £3.4bn for the UK, with 150,000 skilled makers employed across the economy.

But the Craft economy is also in need of enterprise skills – and this is a common need across the creative industries and why Create UK advocates for a ‘fused’ curriculum where enterprise and development of entrepreneurial skills are embedded within creative and science subjects. The vast majority of the creative industries are micro businesses –less than 10 employees – and with wide spread patterns of freelancing and self-employment. Creative makers need to be entrepreneurs and enterprise should be promoted at every stage of learning, from schools to apprenticeships to Higher Education. These are the skills that will create the next ‘fused’ generation that can create, access finance, grow their practice, manage their Intellectual Property and take advantage of the international market for the creative economy.

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