Government industrial strategy: a “missed opportunity” to invest in creativity

The white paper, which looks to boost UK business and the economy, has “positive measures” but does not give creative skills the same space as science, tech and maths, say many organisations.

Courtesy of All in Visuality

The Government has announced its industrial strategy, which is a “step in the right direction” but has “missed an opportunity” to invest in creative skills, says industry bodies.

The industrial strategy launched this week, and includes policies that aim to boost British industry, skills and trade, and therefore the economy.

A £406 million focus on STEM subjects

While the prime minister’s strategy includes a section on the creative industries, organisations have argued that it neglects creative skills in place of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), and focuses predominantly on digital within the creative sector.

It pledges to invest £406 million in maths, digital and technical education to “address the shortage of STEM skills” and also hopes to “put the UK at the forefront of the artificial intelligence (AI) and data revolution”, the new strategy reads.

A similar reaction was garnered from the creative industries following Theresa May’s last industrial strategy, which was released in January.

The new industrial strategy

There are many policies in place this time which aim to boost the creative sector. A key policy is the Creative Clusters programme, first announced as part of Sir Peter Bazalgette’s independent review into the creative industries, published in September. This focuses on building up the sector outside of London through eight research partnerships between universities and creative businesses.

Other policies include a £33 million funding push for “immersive technologies” such as virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR); the development of a new Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre, which aims to increase national understanding of the value of the sector; a three-year trade strategy to boost creative talent and and exports after Brexit; and strengthening of copyright and intellectual property (IP) laws.

The Government has also pledged a National Retraining Scheme which aims to help people learn new skills later in life. This begins with a £64 million investment into digital and construction training.

Double talent VISAs to 2,000

Announced earlier this month, the Government has also promised to double the number of “talent” VISAs for non-EU, international workers to 2,000 per year – but confirmed that these VISAs will be distributed on a “greatest need” basis with more places likely to go towards digital tech.

Lack of reference to creative skills “regrettable”

Jack Tindale, manager for design and innovation policy at cross-party think-tank Policy Connect, says that while the Government’s incentives are “overdue, but welcome”, the lack of detail on “establishing a new pathway for creative skills is regrettable”.

“The white paper continues to focus on STEM while ignoring the contributions made by students taking creative subjects, which will have serious repercussions for the design sector in the years to come,” he says. “The creative industries are one of the sectors least susceptible to automation…and [should be] treated with the same importance as natural sciences and engineering.”

“Puzzling” that design and tech not recognised

The Design Council adds that the strategy fails to highlight the positive financial impact design has made, stating that upcoming research from the organisation demonstrates that design contributes “more than double” the stated £71.7bn figure to the economy.

A spokesperson says: “It is puzzling that while the value of maths is recognised in a future education system, design and technology are not. They are as important to the fourth industrial revolution as STEM subjects. A [creative] skills shortage already costs the UK economy over £6bn a year – if we do not change focus, then this will only continue.”

The Design and Technology (D&T) Association adds that the strategy has “missed an opportunity” to encourage schools to promote design and tech to children from an early age, which would open them up to “career opportunities in a range of industries”.

Focus on stopping “haemorrhaging of talent”

There are also fears that Brexit will come with tougher immigrations laws which could cause a loss of talent to the industry.

John Kampfner, CEO at the Creative Industries Federation, says that while the strategy is “a step in the right direction, much more is needed on [promoting] skills” to counter the “haemorrhaging of talent” that could happen when the UK leaves the European Union (EU).

Research from the Federation recently found that 75% of 250 creative businesses surveyed currently employ EU workers.

“A number of positive measures”

Kampfner adds that there are “a number of positive measures” in the strategy, such as the Creative Industries Clusters programme, and the Cultural Development Fund that was announced in chancellor Philip Hammond’s Autumn Budget last week.

This aims to provide £2 million to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) for cultural projects nationwide.

But Kampfner says the strategy “needs to be much more ambitious and far-sighted.” The Federation has put forward several proposals to the Government, which include a creative freelance visa, and a creative careers campaign, which would promote the benefits of jobs in the sector to young people and “the next generation of talent”.

Read the Government’s industrial strategy in full here.

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