Earning and learning, bridging the gap

Professor Stuart Bartholomew asks, how can institutions bridge the gap between education and the working world?

At a time when the creative industries are growing faster than even before, the influence of art, design and media on our lives has never been more apparent. According to government figures, the UK’s creative industries are worth an estimated £84 billion a year to the UK economy. With levels of growth far outstripping other areas of industry and accounting for over three million jobs nationwide.

British creative know-how has basked in the international limelight for more than a decade. From theatre, to music, to design, the world has coveted our creative thinkers and doers. What’s more continued investment in the sector has helped boost Britain’s creative standing.

However, according to a recent report from the Creative Industries Federation (CIF) our continued success is not set in stone. Other nations have learnt from the British model and are also beginning to invest heavily in their own creative economies. The CIF points out that China has recently made the creative industries a “main pillar” of its national economy, while Taiwan has shifted its curriculum towards the encouragement of creative thinking. While closer to home, our European neighbours such as France, Germany and Italy are doing much the same thing. The international competition is getting tougher and we must ensure that at home we continue to support and nurture emerging and established creative talent.  

There is no shortage of people wanting to study creative subjects, from fashion to photography, model-making to set-design. It’s worrying then, following some recent research undertaken by AUB we found that nearly two thirds of working adults (63%) wish they were working in a job where they could make more use of their creative skills. That’s a shockingly high number of would-be creatives not currently fulfilling their ambitions or reaching their creative potential. 

We found that nearly two thirds of working adults (63%) wish they were working in a job where they could make more use of their creative skills

Despite many of us studying creative subjects at school and university, when it comes to finding a job and building a career, many of us let our creative ambitions slide. For many, there seems to be a disconnect between what they study and what they go on to do as a job. At AUB this is something we are conscious of and we have actively tried to bridge the gap between study and work through initiatives such as AUB24.

Over the course of a week our campus becomes the largest creative agency in the South East, and students have the opportunity, not only to meet with industry professionals, but also to receive a real world brief, in real time – and pitch to a real client.

Previously we have collaborated with the likes of the RNLI, Jimmy’s Iced Coffee, Larmer Tree Festival and Bridport Arts Centre. Most recently our students had the chance to work with Virgin StartUp. Viewed by some as a disruptive brand in itself, this was also a valuable opportunity for those students who will go on to start their own business to meet with industry insiders. These collaborations with established brands gives students a valuable insight into the creative industries to help them take the first big step in their chosen careers.

As a result, at AUB, 97.4% of our graduates go on to employment or further study. I think a large part of this success is the balance we strike between academia and teaching vocational skills. What’s more I think this is a path other institutions can follow. Students shouldn’t just be ‘thinkers’, they also need to be ‘doers’ in equal measure. By bridging this gap, institutions can ensure their graduates are equipped with the necessary skills to enter the world of work, and that UK creative talent remains the envy of the world.  

Professor Stuart Bartholomew CBE is Principal and Vice-Chancellor at Arts University Bournemouth. 

W: aub.ac.uk