Having access to a creative education is precious. The opportunity to be inspired, create connections and solve problems is what gets a lot of kids through the school gates in the morning.
These same possibilities fire up creative people to go to work every day, doing jobs that make such a valuable contribution to the UK and are one of the most likely careers to survive the onslaught of artificial intelligence (AI).
Matt Bush, agency director at Google UK, was asked recently at a talk in London about the changing landscape of advertising what his ambitions would be if he was 21 in 2021. His answer was that he would “think hard about the jobs that won’t be automated in the future.”
Government policy is eroding creative education
But government policy is eroding creativity in education and narrowing down choices for the next generation. In recent years, it has undermined the arts by excluding results in creative subjects from assessment criteria and league tables. Instead, it prioritises the core English Baccalaureate (EBacc) subjects, which are considered to be more academic. This includes English, science, maths, foreign languages, information technology (IT) and humanities.
The effect of this is that schools, desperate to boost their rankings, have no choice but to let creativity slide. It’s narrow-minded, particularly for the creative industries — if schools don’t support the arts, then where does that leave us?
Lauren Child, the children’s laureate and creator of the Charlie and Lola books, encourages children to “stare into space,” because, as she told the Guardian recently: “I have thought a lot about our need to be creative, and how you discover it by accident.”
Only a 2% chance that creative jobs will be automated
Unless kids get the chance to experiment and dream, we are going to raise a nation of data entry clerks. And there’s a problem with that; research conducted by Oxford University in 2013 identified data entry as one of the jobs most likely to be lost to automation in the future, with a 99% chance that robots will soon be doing the work.
But, according to the same reason, there is only a 2% chance that an art director, a producer, a director, a photographer or a fashion designer will be automated. Set and exhibition designers and curators are even lower, at less than 1%.
Many of the jobs that will be safe are the creative ones. Okay, so dentists, surgeons teachers and mechanical engineers are also pretty safe but even delicate procedures like medical operations could be assisted by virtual reality and robotic surgery in the future.
Even marketing managers have a good chance of survival, with only a 1.4% likelihood of being axed, showing that creative thinking counts just as much as creative products.
Learning about the arts teaches us how to solve problems
Creativity in all its guises is also a great resource for the country. The creative industries are worth £92 billion a year to the UK economy — that’s bigger than oil, gas, life sciences, automotive and aeronautics combined, according to the Creative Industries Federation — and have been identified as one of the Government’s five priority sectors in its post-Brexit strategy.
As someone who rose up the ranks through account management, I know that solving problems and building relationships require the kind of resourceful innovation that a creative education fosters in anyone who’s lucky enough to get one.
Justin Pahl, managing director at advertising agency Abbott Mead Vickers (AMV) BBDO, spoke recently at a talk in London about how his love for ideas has fuelled his career in advertising. He spoke about how ideas should come from a range of places, not just the traditional avenues of the fast-track Oxbridge route — they should come from anyone who has a creative contribution to make.
I want my daughter to go to a school that values creativity
Despite their greater resources, some of the over-achieving schools that are so focused on results seem far less likely to encourage creativity than a local comprehensive where teachers have a much wider range of abilities and there is less of a narrow-minded obsession with academia, creating a broader and more balanced curriculum.
I’m in the process of choosing a secondary school for my eldest daughter, and one of my biggest priorities is finding one where creative subjects are valued, where there is a good drama and arts faculty, and where creative expression is encouraged.
While the workplace of the future is difficult to predict, we do know that the most future-proof careers will likely be those that require creativity – so let’s find ways to instill rather than discourage creative learning in the next generation.
Sara Jones is partner and client services director at branding and packaging design studio Free the Birds. It was previously called Dew Gibbons and Partners, which ran as a business for 20 years.