When you’re in the midst of your A-levels and trying to decide what happens next, it can feel like everything is geared towards the academic courses but what if you don’t conform to the traditional curriculum choices? What if you’re of the creative ilk? The pressure is still on – from everyone, including yourself – to get a qualification, to get training, to get something that will help you to get somewhere. Your FE choices are a serious matter. Pick the wrong path, and you could spend the next three or four years of your life doing something that seems totally irrelevant to you… Then the rest of your life wondering what happened to your dream career. That was where I found myself, back in 2012. Juggling what I wanted to do versus what everyone else said I should do.
Now, I’m the Video Lead at a successful creative agency. I’m also the Co-Founder of my own film company. However I probably wouldn’t be, had I been swayed into making different FE choices.
Why, as a creative, I chose a creative school over a university education
Before I start, I need to be clear that I’m not knocking universities. For some people, a university education is absolutely the best choice but it’s important to know that university is not the only choice. Especially for creatives. The reason I chose to go to The School of Communication Arts (SCA) comes down to four points.
Firstly, although higher education comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes, they are invariably smaller than universities. This means the student population is smaller, and so the potential for tutor engagement is greater and this can be really beneficial on a creative level.
Although universities will have dedicated schools focusing on specific subject areas, most colleges are entirely devoted to one subject, be that engineering or art. The benefits are manifold. Highly trained teachers, often professionals in a specific field or niche, who are able to provide expert advice on any route you decide to take. Often you will find yourself in an extraordinary facility, with state of the art equipment that is often funded and sponsored by the industry. This also means that some of the best employers for your specialism have an eye on recruiting graduates of these colleges, knowing they produce and nurture the top talent.
You still get to network
In fact, you probably get to network more effectively. One of the major selling points of the college experience is that you get to meet these amazing people, who may become your industry mentors. And that’s what was so special about my college experience. Every week I was meeting people who worked within the creative industry, who would sit and talk us through our ideas and give us insights into the real world. The advice and knowledge they provided were invaluable and because colleges are smaller and deal in specialisms, you have more opportunities to make those important contacts. And to meet the people best placed to support and coach you through your career.
That’s one of the reasons why I am driven to mentor students at the school myself. Reciprocity is at the heart of the school and I believe students should be given the opportunity to network with industry professionals.
You can build unexpected bridges between creativity and business
Entrepreneurialism is typically associated with business. If entrepreneurs aren’t building tech in their bedrooms, we imagine them attending business schools. Not spending their days in art school. But at college, I was introduced to the idea/notion of the ‘Ideapreneur’. And the art of creative problem-solving. Creativity and entrepreneurialism are so far from being mutually exclusive as to be close bedfellows. While I can’t, categorically, say that I would not have learnt this at university, I know that my experience at The School of Communication Arts, baked it into me. Every day at SCA I was given new industry briefs, had to come up with original campaigns and pitch my ideas to peers and industry experts alike. It taught me to be fearless and without it, I probably wouldn’t have had the career successes I’ve enjoyed thus far.
Like it or not, your FE choices shape your career. That’s kind of what further education is there for. As a creative, you can’t always take the expected route. University is an option, and it should never be ignored but for creatives, other paths are definitely worth consideration and could just be the making of your career.
By Tom Baker, Video Lead at RCCO and Co-Founder of Wild Films, is an award-winning Video Filmmaker and Director, having worked on projects that have won eight dolphins at the Cannes Corporate Media Awards.