Theresa May focuses on STEM subjects in Government’s industrial strategy

The prime minister has announced her strategy to support sectors and boost the UK economy, which includes creative industries but places a greater focus on science and technology.

10 Downing Street in London

Prime minister Theresa May has announced her industrial strategy, which includes the creative industries but places a greater emphasis on science and technology.

The industrial strategy is a government plan aimed to boost the effectiveness of UK industries and therefore improve the economy.

May has framed her plan around ten main points, which include investing in science and research; developing skills; improving both physical and digital infrastructure; helping businesses grow; encouraging trade; and helping to ensure the UK’s most successful sectors “flourish”.

Her aim to develop skills focuses on science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills alongside digital skills and numeracy, but neglects to mention creative skills.

“A mix of skills is critical”

A spokesperson at the Creative Industries Federation (CIF) says: “Developing skills – and encouraging the right mix of skills – is critical. We understand the government’s focus on STEM but highlight that creative skills… are needed not just by the creative industries but in everything from car manufacturing to engineering.”

CIF goes on to say that a greater focus should be placed on creative subjects in education, to help enable young people to take on jobs in areas with skill shortages, such as visual effects and animation.

The D&T Association adds that the Government needs to ensure that different disciplines are taught in conjunction with each other rather than in isolation. The organisation’s CEO Dr Julie Nugent hopes that new GCSE and A-Level design and technology curriculums set to be implemented this year aim to “introduce young people to real world applications where maths, physics, science, computing, coding, creative and design thinking come together.”

Sector deals to help boost individual industries

While policy on skills and training focuses on STEM subjects, the prime minister has also announced that it will include “sector deals”, offering special support to industries if this will help them address challenges or boost their productivity.

Five main sectors have been named – the creative industries, alongside life science, ultra-low emission vehicles, digital technology in manufacturing, and nuclear.

This support will not be in the form of funding but in improving training and skills, allowing deregulation if necessary, enabling more opportunities to use new technology, using existing funding more effectively, helping to encourage international trade following Brexit and supporting the creation of new institutions.

Sir Peter Bazalgette, previous chair of Arts Council England, will lead the creative industries in the deal.

A “major step forward” for the sector

CIF notes that the creative industries’ inclusion in the policy is “a major step forward for a sector which has never been formally recognised in an industrial strategy before”.

It adds: “Support for skills, infrastructure, funding, small businesses and expanding international trade could further accelerate growth in what is already the fastest-growing sector of the UK economy.”

The creative industries currently contribute £87 bn to the UK economy, and account for 6% of jobs, according to CIF.

Read the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper in full here.

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