From education to employment

The creative North West

A recent report from business lobbying group, the CBI, warned that the UK’s creative industries are being held back by a lack of relevant skills and called for the government to take ‘urgent’ action to adapt the school curriculums to plug the gap. Dr Lis Smith, principal and chief executive at Lancashire’s Preston College, looks at the potential of the creative industry in the North West and how recent investment in new college facilities is helping to bridge the skills gap in this sector.

“The CBI’s report highlights a discrepancy between the skills required by business and the education system. Our creative industries are considered to be a key driver of the economic recovery and it’s extremely important that skills developed and subjects taught in the education system correspond to the needs of business.

“Nationally the sector, which includes performing arts, marketing, video gaming and TV, has the potential to employ some 1.3 million people by 2013 and already contributes 6% of GDP. In Preston College’s home region of the North West around 320,000 people are employed in some 30,000 creative firms which combined, generate around £16bn.

“The spotlight on this industry in our region has never been so strong. A renewed sense of passion and focus on the opportunities available in the creative industries has emerged on the back of the regeneration at MediaCityUK in Salford. With this development, more creative businesses are moving into the region and it’s more important than ever that young people in the North West are afforded chances to take advantage of the opportunities that exist for them in this area.

“A key aim of Preston College is to deliver the necessary skills in the best possible environment and prepare students for the world of work, building on their existing interests and aptitudes. Developing and promoting employability in students so that they can take advantage of the opportunities available to them in the work place is vital. With the creative industries rapidly expanding in the region, now is the perfect time for us to be investing in our creative arts programmes and we are extremely proud of our performing and visual arts provision which we believe is helping to bridge the creative skills gap in the region, identified by the CBI.

“Home to all students on the College’s wide range of creative arts programmes from dance and drama to photography, textiles and music is a new, £5 million academy which provides a distinctive and innovative learning environment with features that include a high specification theatre, industry standard dance, music, photography, television and radio studios as well as art and 3D design rooms. The building also houses one of the UK’s largest Apple Authorised Training Centres.

“One of the benefits to learners at Preston College is that we offer courses at all levels, from entry level to higher education and all courses have a strong focus on employability and enterprise, allowing progression to further study, or a rewarding career in the creative industries.

“In addition to high quality teaching in professional surroundings, students at Preston College are also benefiting from the extensive links with business that are embedded within the curriculum in order to bridge the gap between education and employment. Our new facility, for example, is a Roland Academy for Music, an Apple Authorised Training Centre, an ISTD (Imperial Society for Teachers of Dance) professional dance centre and a LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art) training centre.

“As the employment market continues to be extremely competitive it’s more important than ever that the education sector responds effectively to employers’ needs and maximises the potential of all learners. Giving learners the opportunity to develop skills they need to compete in the work place and gain vital experience will help set them on the path to a creative career.”

Dr Lis Smith is principal and chief executive of Lancashire’s Preston College

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