The UK Does This Better Than Us

I think there are many lessons that we can learn from the UK with how they’ve shaped and grown their creative industries (especially their VFX industry). They seem to have much better co-ordination between government, education and industry than we do. Comparing our VFX industries, the difference is quite striking. Creative Skillset is a non-profit organization in the UK, this is it’s description on it’s webpage:

Creative Skillset empowers the Creative Industries to develop skills and talent; we do this by influencing and shaping policy, ensuring quality and by securing the vital investment for individuals to become the best in their field and for businesses to grow.

As the industry skills body for the Creative Industries, we work across film, television, radio, fashion, animation, games, visual effects, textiles, publishing, advertising, marketing communications and performing arts.

I originally thought that this was some sort of official government body, but after reading their page I was surprised to see it was a non-profit. They call themselves a ‘strategic skills body’ that works with industry, trade associations, educators, government to ensure the UK’s creative industries have access to the skills and talent they need.

They’ve raised and managed funds from industry and Government to deliver skills development. The give a sort of ‘seal of approval’ to courses that teach relevant information in their fields. They give out and spread career information. They also do a lot of research to try to understanding the current and future needs of employers. It’s impressive work they do, just look at their publications in this year alone. There’s a bloody 35 page report about the CG skills in Northern Ireland, filled with recommendations, finding weaknesses in their current skills and steps on how to fix it. It’s damn impressive.

They’ve had other interesting publications as well. This one was a report on how well education was preparing students for working in the gaming and VFX industry (very critical, but filled with recommendations). This was a great one as well, The Core Skills of VFX, which not only provides a list of the skills you need to succeed in VFX, but a sample syllabus for VFX courses to use.

It’s not just VFX. They have another organization called Next Gen Skills which advocates teaching Computer Science in elementary and secondary schools. They understand that it’s imperative for their youth to get exposed to computer science foundations if they want to build the next wave of apps, games and yes, VFX tools.

I do think they have a bit too much emphasis on youth and people entering the job market.  I think more has to be done to support the artists already earning a living in the industry but who want to improve.

I look at this stuff and it drives me crazy. Canada should have something like this. Ontario should have something like this. It blows my mind. I look at it all and I wonder where do you even start?

If I could wave a wand and magically make things happen, I'd want an organization to do the following:

  • Find out from the local studios what skills they have trouble filling, and then help to facilitate filling them.
  • Organize low-cost Continuous Professional Development for VFX artists in the city. This means supporting artists that are currently working. I think all the courses that run in Toronto are geared towards beginners entering the industry. I think a lot of professionals would like short, specifically targeted training to help keep their skills up to date.
  • Run low-cost training sessions regarding money management/retirement planning, specifically geared towards artists who work contract and freelance positions.

Thoughts? Am I crazy and overreacting about this? See, in my mind, we’re in a worldwide fight for work and jobs. Hell, never mind competing with India and China, we have to compete with Montreal and Vancouver. There are many things in this fight that are beyond our control, but as artists one thing we can do is help each other. I would seriously love to hear any of your thoughts in the comments.