Last month’s news that the government is planning a 50% reduced spending on arts subjects for higher education in England was a shock. The proposal that subjects in music, dance, theater and performing arts; Art and design; Media studies; and archeology have been identified as “not among its strategic priorities” seems an unnecessary and damaging blow to a sector that has been severely maimed by the pandemic.
It also appears contrary to the ambitions displayed in the government proposal Building back better plan for growth, which cites the creative industries as vital to the UK’s economic success. The sector will need an influx of young talent to build, once again, in an industry that has seen the fastest growth in the UK economy, generating employment opportunities faster than any other sector. At Creative & Cultural Skills, we fully support efforts to change the course of this decision.
Lack of misplaced academic qualifications
But if this is to be the new landscape for developing the next generation of creative talent, we should also ask ourselves: where does it take us now? If academic training is reduced in higher education, does this leave room for growth in higher technical training options?
A consistent issue we hear from our partners in the creative sector is that the graduates they recruit do not have the appropriate skills for the industry. That’s one of the reasons we continue to promote apprenticeship and other vocational education programs: on-the-job training is a surefire way to help individuals develop the skills they need. need for the world of work.
Many organizations continue to demand higher qualifications even though the positions they hire do not require them. This lack of academic qualifications excludes many people for whom university is not a desirable or realistic option and results in a sector that is narrower in its societal composition and not as fair or equal as it should be.
Evolution of the perception of professional qualifications
A change in attitude towards technical training pathways would be welcome and would reflect a change in public perception of vocational qualifications. A recent study of the Social Market Foundation revealed that 48% of people would rather their child get a vocational qualification than go to university or work; people with vocational qualifications are seen as more technically skilled, work-ready and adaptable than university graduates; with most believing that vocational education should be at least a political priority equal to university education.
And if learning is to be the future of our industry, we also need to address the challenges many organizations face in adopting it. In the Top 100 Apprenticeship Employers for 2020 (compiled by High Fliers Research and scored on overall commitment to employing apprentices, creating new apprenticeships, diversity of their new apprentices, and progressing their apprentices to other apprenticeships and jobs) no creative sector organizations or culture did not appear in the top 100 .
Many of the organizations we work with have achieved great things with their apprenticeship programs and launched thousands of young people on their career paths in the creative sector. Yet other companies find the barriers to recruiting, both perceived and real, to be insurmountable.
Rebalancing academic and professional options
None of this should diminish the importance of academic study tracks for the creative arts. The UK is home to some of the best art schools in the world and the talent they cultivate is vital to our cultural sector maintaining its status as a world leader. It should also not be forgotten that the cuts in arts courses will disproportionately prevent less advantaged students from accessing them in the first place.
But it can also force a much-needed rebalancing of academic and career options, in turn encouraging us to assess valid pre-requisites for entry to work. We hope that the debates and actions sparked by Minister Williamson’s proposals will in turn help the creative industries to rebuild themselves into a fairer and more inclusive sector, thanks to the availability of training pathways best placed to contribute to this. .
How we can make learnings work for our sector as effectively as they do for others is one of the topics of our Build Back Fairer podcast series where we explore the impacts and opportunities that may have been accentuated by or occurred during the pandemic.
This article, sponsored and contributed by Creative & Cultural Skills, is part of a series promoting learning and addressing entrenched social inequalities, to create a more diverse workforce.