The UK’s creative industry has spoken and it’s time to re-evaluate the current structure of the trade, from university programs to the workforce. The London College of Communication hosted a talk to discuss the changing needs of one of the UK’s largest growing industries.
The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) is an innovation charity that has recently conducted research about the UK’s creative economy and where it’s heading. John Davies, an economic research fellow at NESTA, highlighted that the creative economy is made up of two parts: creative jobs and creative industries.
“Occupations classified as creative jobs for example are acting, design, computer programmer, artist etc…” said Davies. “Industries that employ creative workers tend to be classified as creative industries… for example, a designer working for a car company.”
According to NESTA, there were around 2.8 million jobs in the creative economy as of 2014, of which 1.8 million corresponded to employment in creative industries.
However, the creative workforce is increasingly becoming self-employed with the current rate at 44 percent, according to Catherine Large, the Deputy Chief Executive at Creative & Cultural Skills. “No artist wants to be put in a box and be told they are similar to someone else,” said Large.
Greg Ward, a documentary filmmaker who graduated from LCC, remembers his job search as “soul-destroying” due to the lack of paid opportunities in his field. “When I finished my course I didn’t know what to do, I found it hard to get work,” said Ward. He eventually turned to Kickstarter, a crowd funding website, where he raised funds online for his award winning documentary ‘The Killing of Tony Blair.’ “When I finished the crowd funding campaign I actually got a offered a fulltime job with the BBC, which I would’ve jumped at anytime before the campaign.” He says that although university teaches you the skills you need, creative programs need to focus on the practical side of the creative economy as well. “There was no emphasis on business and making money,” said Ward.
Simon Yuen is a founding director at Kingdom London, a digital and film creative agency. He says that business plays a crucial role in his everyday life as a designer. Yuen attended LCC and Central Saint Martins focusing on communication and design. “Design takes 5–10 percent of my time nowadays,” he said. “Not everyone wants to start their own business… the majority of students probably want to end up in a design studio or a commercial entity, but to be in that entity they need an insight on how they run.”
Regardless of the lack of entrepreneurial training at university, the research concluded that 58 percent of workers in the creative economy have a degree as opposed to 31 percent in the UK workforce. However, Yuen admits that a degree is not a priority when he recruits employees. “When we interview designers we rarely look at their CVs or whether they’ve been to college because we can decide whether aesthetically they’ve got the designers eye through their portfolios,” he said. “There’s still definitely a place for universities to create a more structured framework for those that don’t have the inclination to teach themselves.”
Sarah Gold, a London-based designer and Central Saint Martin’s alumni, says that universities need to play a bigger role in students’ lives after they graduate. “Universities should become incubators for at least two years after you graduate so graduates can have access to proper machinery and space,” said Gold. She also believes there is too much emphasis on outdated techniques like paper-based CV’s and that the best way to get the job you want is to showcase your ideas. “Talk to people as an individual who can generate great value for a company,” she said.