A Career In The Creative Industries Education Essay

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The University of Bolton offers a wide repertoire of creative courses; Arts, Design and Media, Creative Writing, Special Effects, sound and Live Events, all of which the creative industries would be an obvious first choice as a destination for creative students looking to enter the world of work.

In David Cameron's May 2010 speech on the economy, he addresses the economic issues the UK is facing and acknowledges that it is the priority of the government is to transform our economy. He states that the economy has become unbalanced with only a few industries in one corner of the country, rising national debt and too many people on out of work benefits. He highlights the creative industries as an important growth area in rebalancing the economy, getting people working and lighting the fires of entrepreneurialism. (Cameron, 2010)

The UK digital and creative industries contribute to 6% of GDP and employ over 2 million people; it is one of the fastest growing sectors in the UK economy and has been forecast to be playing an even greater role in years to come. (UKTI, 2012) But with this in mind the main candidates for a career in these industries ; graduates of computer sciences and creative arts degrees, have been reported by the higher Education Careers Service Unit to be amongst the least employable graduates. Further to this the data shows that the University of Bolton has the 2nd lowest Employment Performance Indicator in the UK. This seems to be backed up by Lord Puttnam's belief that the UK creative Industries risk's "Falling asleep at the wheel" (Wiseman, 2012)

"Had we in the UK really focused on digital skills and entrepreneurship two decades ago, we might now be in a position to generate the type of growth in jobs and revenue we so desperately need" (Puttnam cited in Wiseman, 2012)

Problem statement

Full time students looking for a career in the Creative and Digital Industries are proving to be some of the most unemployable of graduates, considering the year on year growth of the creative industries and the acknowledgement by the government that the growth in these industries could prove to be an economic lifeline for the UK, it would make sense that plugging this employability gap between graduates and what is needed by the creative industries would help secure the economic future for the UK and its Creative Industries.

Bolton uni

Rational for the study

Developing talent and skills for the creative industries is essential for the future of these industries and a life line for the UK economy. (CIC Skillset Skills Group , 2011) The estimate of the current and future economic growth makes it clear that we are a creative nation, a knowledge nation and an innovative nation.

The UK digital and creative industries contribute to 6% of GDP and employ over 2 million people; It is one of the fastest growing sectors in the UK economy and has been forecast to be playing an even greater role in years to come. (UKTI, 2012) Between 1999/2000 and 2007/2008 graduate registrations for creative courses in higher education have grown by 58 per cent for full-time first degree (See table 1.1) (Ball, Pollard, & Stanley, 2010)

Table 1.1: Registrations in full-time first degrees 1999-2007


Creative Arts

All subjects










Source: Full-time first degrees 1999/2000 and 20007/2008, HESA table 2a

The rise of tuition fees coupled with the fall in employability of students looking for a career within these industries mean there will be increased pressure on universities and the government to increase the employability of their graduates for one two main reasons; Value for money for the tax payers and the growth of the UK economy.

It has been estimated by the Institute for Fiscal Studies that students attending university under the funding system will be paying off their tuition fees well into their 50's, with an estimated 56% qualifying to be written off after 30 years. It is in the best interest not only of the students but also tax payer that these loans are paid off.

This study would also have benefits for the University of Bolton as HESA annual performance indicator report is considered to be one of the major pieces of statistics used in the universities league tables.

Significance of the study

This study would help benefit many stake holders in the education system. First of all the study would help students identify how to increase their own employability benefiting both student and the creative industries. Secondly it could be used to increase value for money as students main reason for embarking on a university course is to see a return for their investment in the form of better job prospects. It could be used by educational institutions to make adjustments to current creative courses, making them more relevant to the creative industries and encouraging entrepreneurial spirit that is abundant in many successful freelance graduates and start-up companies.

It would help educational institutions in supporting the development of new modules or modification to existing modules needed to tackle the employability deficit. It would benefit the tax payer ensuring better value for money.

This study outlines the discrepancy between the employability of students and the needs of the creative industries. The study will help students to understand the employment needs of the creative industries; it will help educational institutions increase the employability of students and help students understand how they increase their own employment prospects.

Governments internationally have drawn upon Human Capital theory (Becker, 2009)in formulating higher education policy. In brief, Human capital theory links economic success to the education of the workforce. This is one of the main reasons shy employability has become a significant messure within our education system.

Aim of this study

This paper will help to identify and priorities specific employability skills and attributes that are required/desired by employers in the creative industries. The finding will be used to create a Creative Industries skills profile that could be used by The University of Bolton, its students and employers to support personal development and help to increase its graduate's employability.

This study will help students understand how they can improve their own employability and personal development.

Objectives of this prototype report

To establish the wide perspective of employability

To perform a literature review relating to the changing context of employability for creative students in Higher education

To establish examples of good practice in the curriculum that encourages employability

Examples of good models of personal development planning

To perform research into the different skills in demand by the creative industries and create an inventory of such skills, categorising them into 3 areas; core skills, personal qualities and knowledge base

Objectives of the final report

Offer a comparison of The students on creative and digital courses against other sectors/institutions

To survey students, graduates and employers to determine the relative importance of the different Core skills, Knowledge base and Personal Qualities. This will also provide the stakeholders an opportunity to list other skills not covered in the literature review

To compile an inventory of skills listed in order of importance to support students self-assessing their strengths and weaknesses. This will be presented as a personal development tool to be used by students throughout their degree.

To use the data from the students self-assessments and the employers skills assessment to suggest changes to curriculum.


To survey students to

To survey graduates, employers and university course leaders to determine their perception on the relative importance of different employability skills

and assess whether their confidence in finding employment is linked to their understanding of their strengths and weaknesses.

Using data collected from employers and freelancers to compile a skills inventory to help support students identify their strengths and weaknesses and support them in producing a personal development plan to help them develop and become accountable for their own employability.

Using the data collected from students, course leaders, freelancers and employers this study will suggest changes to curriculum that would support developing their student's employability.

To analyse case studies of freelancers and graduates, discussing their progress in finding employment. And then to make observations about trends that contribute to success in finding employment.

Literature review

Options for students looking for a career in the creative industries


Portfolio work

Graduate level employment


Learning for life

Skills competencies - (e.g. Murphy, 2001; Tariq and Cochrane, 2003; Tomkins, 2004; Yorke and Knight, 2004).

Personal qualities, Core Skills and subject knowledge

Current graduates employability

Destinations and reflections study of graduate career paths in art and design.

Destinations and Reflections was an in-depth study of the careers of arts and design graduates. It was a study of over 2000 graduates from 14 institutions . The research was carried out by Centre for Research into Quality and was a basis for exploring some of the myths about art and design education. The study helped understand the place if art and design education in the modern world of graduate employment. In essence it found that employers are less interested in the actual subject area studied and more concerned with interactive skills such as communication, teamwork and interpersonal skills alongside personal kills, abilities, intellect, ability to find things out, willingness to learn, flexibility and adaptability, self-belief skills such as self-motivation, self-assurance and self-promotion. To a certain degree art and design graduates demonstrate or at least quickly develop most of these attributes and should be in a good position to make their own way in the graduate market but it is argued if graduates themselves are aware of this and fundamentally if those that are teaching in the sector are aware of the students employment prospect. The study established that although there is an oversupply of creative students with regards to graduate opportunities that the issue of oversupply would appear to be irrelevant for two reasons, the oversupply of graduates is an issue for all sectors and secondly there is an issue of what actually constitutes a 'graduate job' as changes in organisation of businesses have effectively put an end to the 'graduate job'. With this in mind it is important for graduates of these subjects need to be flexible and adaptable and have confidence and self-belief to take the initiative in the workplace.

Changes in the workplace

The way people work has changed considerably over the last decade, technology has brought new possibilities in a knowledge-based economy. The nine to five, Monday to Friday working pattern are increasingly becoming a thing of the past as the economy has moved away from manufacturing and into a knowledge based, digital and service based economy. (REFERACE). This has also affected the notion of a 'graduate level' jobs and the linear 'job for life'. These expectations are no longer realistic for the modern graduate in any creative subject area as graduates engage in a wide variety of work, from working in smaller enterprises or on freelance bases, to the rise of the so called 'portfolio career' in which one works more than one, sometimes multiple part time jobs. (Adler, 2006)

"To be able to manage these changes in the work place graduates need a set of

desirable skills:

Interactive attributes: communication, interpersonal and teamwork

Personal attributes: intellect and problem-solving; analytic, critical and reflective ability; willingness to learn and continue learning; flexibility, adaptability and risk-taking. These are the attributes that help organisations to deal with change. An understanding of the world of work, some commercial awareness, and an appreciation of work culture." (Harvey et al. 2002)

Portfolio Career

Most people working creatively are working some kind of Portfolio Career for a number of reasons, one might be doing it for economic value; adverts for TV or working for a particular company's product launch can pay quite well but can be extremely limiting (i.e. they don't last long). Secondly there is job satisfaction, some people may choose to do a particular job because of atheistic value; maybe just to keep them busy until a more profitable opportunity becomes available. Thirdly people might choose to do a job because it could help develop their own career, they might want to start their own company, in which case they could possibly have to do a number of things in terms of sustaining themselves, (Bryant, 2012) for example Jo Hilditch, the course leader of the Creative Industries and Music BSc at Bolton University still refers to herself as a PR and marketing guru in terms of her main vocational calling.

There is a growing awareness in the UK of the

importance of higher education to the

development of a knowledge-based economy in

an increasingly competitive global market. Three

major policy initiatives in post-compulsory

education are helping to drive this:

• widening participation and improving retention;

• lifelong learning;

• enhancing employability.

The Employability agenda

Department for Educatoin and skills.

Widening participation

Since (year date) there are more students entering HE than ever. This has ment that there is has been a need for a greater spectrum in the

What is employability?

Accademic theory Hillage and Pollard (1998) Hillage, J. & Pollard, E. (1998) Employability: developing a framework for policy analysis.

Research Brief 85, Department for Education and Employment.

It is difficult to find a universally accepted definition of what employability is, or what even employability skills are as the different sectors have different aims with regards to employability.

Hillage & Pollard, (1998) of the Institute for Employment Studies developed a framework for analysis on employability, Their main findings were that employability is about having the capability to gain initial employment, maintain employment and if required find new employment. For the individual, employability depends upon their assets in terms of knowledge, skills and attitudes, the way these assets are presented, used and deployed and the context within which the individual works, e.g personal circumstances and labour markets.

The government policy is aimed at:

Emphasis on the development of knowledge and accreditation of vocational skills rather than 'softer' skills and attitudes

at people looking to enter the labour market, the unemployed and students rather than those already in the labour market

the demonstration of assets rather than their deployment

the supply and individual side rather than the employers and demand side.

(Hillage & Pollard, 1998)

The problem with the government policy is this doesn't really cater for people looking for a career in the creative industries, whom which are often participating in portfolio or freelance style of work. Having excellent knowledge of employer relevant skills and attitudes is not enough for this group to release their potential by moving freely about in the labour markets. This group of creators needs to be able to exploit their asses by marketing them and selling them.

Although employability is much used concept in terms of finding employment, there has been no constancy in its definition or how it is measured, employability is not just about an acquisition of a certain repertoire of skills, (Morley, 2001)

Yorke (2001) argues for a concept of employability that promotes a synergic combination of personal qualities, skills of various kinds and subject understanding, with particular emphasis is placed on personal qualities as these are harder to teach in an educational environment but could have a considerable effect on obtaining employment.

Therefore there are two main concepts of employability, the educational concept relating to the ability of graduates to achieve graduate level roles, meaning employability is more related to graduates being equipped and capable of a job rather than obtaining employment. The second which is a concept which very much fits the government's agenda, "Get a Job - any job" (Harvey, 2001; van der Heijden, 2001). The governments take on employability doesn't take into consideration the graduates desire to become successful in their chosen occupation, as a consequence the Skills Plus project began in 2000 and ran for two years involving many different departments over four universities.

Capability was a major influence in the Skills Plus Project's approach to employability and this was taken further by creating the Enhancing Students Employability Co-ordination Team (ESECT), ESECT described employability as:

a set of achievements - skills, understandings and personal attributes - that make

graduates more likely to gain employment and be successful in their chosen

occupations, which benefits themselves, the workforce, the community and the

economy. (Yorke & Knight, 2006)

This employability statement meets the expectation of the policy-makers; essentially it went beyond the narrower concepts (get a job-any job) of employability to help see students succeed in wider societal, outlook.

The approach adopted by ESECT was more accepted by academics that the earlier government rhetoric about decreasing a "skills gap' and was accompanied by a loose framework, using the acronym USEM; four related components:


Skilful practices in context

Self-Efficiency and personal qualities;


The attraction that USEM has over previous prescribed polices is that it uses a framework that askes 'how can your studies respond to the implications of USEM's four areas?' rather than a check list of skills to be covered within the curriculum.

Explaining USEM

Self-Efficiency and Personal Qualities

Self-effeicancy is usualy defined as a belief in one's capability to achieve a goal or specific outcome. Students with a stong sned of self efficancy

Key Skills

HE in the UK has been subject to a number of policy initcatives intended to promote the development of 'skills',

Figure : A schematic USEM model of employability, Knight and Yorke (2002)

The above diagram outlines the USEM model; it is "an attempt to put thinking about

Employability on a more scientific basis, partly because of the need to appeal to academic staff on their own terms by referring to research evidence and theory" (Knight and Yorke, 2004)

USEM Model

Employability Performance Indicators.

Performance indicators are provided by the Higher Education Statistics Agency, they cover publicly funded higher education institutions in the UK. Performance indicators is comparative data on the performance of institutes in widening participation, student retention, learning and teaching outcomes, research output and employment of graduates. (HESA, 2012)

Employment indicators are based on the Destinations of Leaver in Higher Education survey, it details the percentage and number of graduates who say they are working or studying after 6 months after graduation. The table provides a breakdown by higher education institution, subject area and includes the response rates of the DLHE survey.

This study will compare 2010/11 leavers with the previous years for the whole of the UK and then compare the University of Bolton'ss against the national averages.

Finding from the national 2010/11 full-time first degree data:

90.3% of 2010/11 leavers where in employment or went on to further study

87.6% of 2010/11 full-time first degree graduates of Creative Arts and Design subjects went onto further study or employment.

84.9% of computer science students went onto study or where in employment.

Findings from the University of Bolton 2010/2011 full time first degree data.

78.8% of leavers went onto employment or further study.

The vas majority of UK occupations are represented by The Sector Skills Allience

Government policy.

The two main concepts of employability

Educational concept relating to the graduates ability to tackle gradute level jobs.

Government concept which is used by the government in the construction of the employability performance indicators.

The difference in employability and employment.

Options after graduation

Employability skills

Coppers and Lybrand 4 main areas

Intellectual skills - critical evaluation, logical argument

Key Skills - commuicatoin, IT etc

Personal Attributes -motivation, self reliance

Knowledge of organisations and how they work.

Several synonyms - Core Key, Generic, personal transferable skills, common, work or employment related sklls

Key Skills

Dearing (1997) four components

Communication, Numeracy. IT, ability to learn (learning how to learn)

Personal Qualities/self-efficacy beliefs

Curriculum developments

The purpose of higher education

Personal development Plannings

DEaubg report recommendation 20

This skills inventory to be used by students researching industry sectirs, fir ut ti wirj the university ahs to have good ties with the creative industry as the employers will be the ones filling out the skills profile and then the students can use that as aims for personal development.

Life long learning


Reflective thinking refers to the capacity to develop critical consideration of one's own world-view

and the relationship to the world view of others.

Work Experience


Employers needs requirements


Curricula designed to enhance employability are also of benefit on

purely educational grounds too, and can be divided into four areas:

1) knowledge and understanding of the subject that has been chosen to study,

2) developing skills, both subject specific and generic (key) skills,

3) self-efficacy beliefs,

4) strategic thinking or reflection - thinking about what you have done and how it has helped you

develop as a person, not just doing it (c.f. Knight & Yorke, 2001).

Sh1@bolton.ac.uk sue Hollingshead

Data manager.

Compare different perspectives

Possible Questions for research


Here is a list of different instructional techniques, Please rate how effective each technique is for your lerning. Using a 11-point system, where 0 means the technique is not at all effective and 10 means the technique is very effective. If you have not been exposed to this technique please respond "N/A"

On-the-job Training

Hands-on training



Traditional lecture

Online/distance learning

On average hoe much time do you spend in your academic program in practival, hands on learning versus theretical learning? For example for every 10 hours you spend learning how many of these is practical work?

Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Overall I was adequately prepared for entry-level position in my chosen field of study.


Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Overall Employees we hired in the past year have been adequately prepared by their education or training.


Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Overall Graduates from my institution are adequately prepared for entry-level positions in their chosen field of study