Creative skills just part of the picture

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Written by Marc Zao-Sanders on 8 October 2014 in Features

The necessity to train the incoming workforce to ensure an adequately skilled and well-rounded workforce, across all industries should be clear, Marc Zao-Sanders says

Much needed resources to close the industry skills gap are on their way, as the government announces plans to invest £6.5 million towards training for the creative industries. It will be interesting to see how this investment into 1,300 qualifications, 1,000 short courses and 150 apprenticeship places will come to fruition.

That there is huge talent in Britain’s creative industry is well known. Glitzy fashion houses such as Alexander McQueen, global gaming studios such as Rockstar North (the team behind ‘Grand Theft Auto’) and the inspired geniuses behind blockbusters such as ‘Gravity’ all come from these shores. The British creative industry has a vibrant successful history and it is in everybody’s interest to ensure that its future workforce  is equipped with the necessary skills to maintain this world-beating status.  

The provision of creative training courses will be much welcomed by this headline-grabbing industry. But business is not just about creative skills. A report from the British Chambers of Commerce  shows that 90 per cent of UK firms surveyed thought school leavers weren’t ready for employment and 50 per cent thought the same of university graduates, claiming they lacked work experience and communication skills.  20 million of the country’s 30 million employed workforce are generalist – not just creative – knowledge workers and it’s that large group which determines the country’s economic rises and falls. So the necessity to train the incoming workforce to ensure an adequately skilled and well-rounded workforce, across all industries should be clear. This must include literacy, communication and business skills. This brings value to not just to the employer, but also the employee who improves his or her business acumen and commercial worth – in whichever industry he or she chooses to work.

The success of a creative business is founded on a capable and well-rounded workforce able to write persuasively, edit precisely, calculate meticulously, research comprehensively and analyse insightfully.  These unglorified skills form the backbone of all business, providing the platform for creatives to be creative – the ideas, artwork, design, inventions – that customers expect and ultimately enjoy. Important as creatives are, businesses can survive without them. But no business can survive without the business essentials.

As the government swoops down to furnish state-of-the-art training on the most glamorous of industries, the knight in shining armour for the rest of business is less clear. Though there’s been a shift over the past few years, schools, colleges and universities understandably align their efforts with their expertise, i.e they stick to curricula and academia.  It’s often not feasible for employers to invest the time and resources required for skills training owing to tight budgets and ever-pressing business deadlines.  Of course, young people themselves must also share some of the responsibility for their own futures, but being at the start of their careers, they need guidance and time.  Since this essential responsibility falls to no single stakeholder, the government must intervene and coordinate collaboration between schools, industry and government to ensure that students are successfully progressing from school into the workplace as competent and confident industry professionals.

It will also be interesting to see how the government measures the success of the proposed training schemes and what happens to students after they have completed it.  Success will ultimately rest on adoption, engagement and impact, the last of which must be measured by employment and use of skills-sets in that employment.

The government’s training strategy is hugely encouraging. But skills shortages abound in every industry, from manufacturing, to science, engineering and technology, each of which looks to address its own unique challenges. With both specialist and generalist skills in short supply and the British Chambers of Commerce and others repeatedly reporting skills gaps, it is imperative that the government sees the creative industries as the tip of the iceberg rather than the cherry on the cake, and supports and enlightens young people in schools, colleges and universities about the exciting and demanding workplace that lies before them.


About the author

Marc Zao-Sanders is co-founder of online learning specialists Filtered (


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