Despite superficially positive figures regarding unemployment coming out in the past few months, let's be clear, there is a massive employment crisis in the United Kingdom. We have unemployment at 6.8%, with a further 500,000 people in work being underemployed and a shocking 2% of the workforce on zero hours contracts with no certain earnings from week to week. This is not a stable situation for the nation, for working people or for the economy.
In the current economic climate of uncertainty, job creation is slow at best, especially in creative industries. Our universities are producing thousands of creative talents each year, yet they have few skills to use their talent to get a job or make money. Our schools focus on the academic almost exclusively, at the expense of more practical skills or teaching kids how to make something of their individual abilities that may be less academic. This is going to become even more apparent with Gove's education reforms, Doug Richard (former Dragon and head of the School for Creative Startups) 'despairs' at the second tier status of creative subjects, especially as creative industries are a major engine for exports in the UK. By restricting the abilities of creative to utilise their talent, this engine will stall in coming years, causing problems for the economy when it does.
Now, I am not saying that academic education is a bad thing, far from it, I'm an Oxford student who has been academic for my entire life - I would be nowhere without a solid academic education. That does not mean it suits everyone, however. Yes we need scientists, economists, linguists etc., but that does not mean they should be the whole focus of our education system. An effective system that produces the best outcome for all is one that nutures the talents of all, whether that is at mathematics or fashion design. We need to educate people to their fullest potential, no matter the areas, and not just this, but education in how to make the most of their talents too. Someone may have the ability to create the perfect blend of tea, but if they do not know how to turn this into a business or product they can make a living from, their ability is wasted.
Lady Tesla's Loose Teas & Mud, an example of the creativity on show!
In this country, we have some fantastic arts universities, who allow those with the talent to explore what they can do to the fullest extent of their talent, and many of the people at these universities have the potential to create something new that would be extremely popular in the wider world, yet they have no way to bring it into the public sphere. At a press preview for the School for Creative Startups (not sure why Sage gave some random student blogger an invite, but with the free samples there, I wasn't moaning!), an alumnus of the University of the Arts, London, gave a short speech, in which she said that the help given to her at university in regard to using her talent to create something she could make money off was little. 'I was taught,' she said, 'how to make things not how to make money to eat,' and in her short speech, she made it clear that in this, she was the norm, not the exception.
Now, I will not dispute the School for Creative Start-ups provides a excellent program for creative people to turn their ideas into businesses they can make a living from. Promoting small business is great not just for these people, but for the economy as whole, as small businesses provide almost half of private sector employment. Helping people create new businesses with new ideas will definitely create more jobs and ensure more people can earn a living rather than having to claim benefits or tolerate an uncertain zero hours contract. The question is, why does a private social enterprise have to provide the training and support for creative people to start a firm? Why can't the government invest in talented people and their ideas? We can afford to borrow more, with such low interest rates. Why not borrow a little bit more to help talented people to create something new, and jobs and economic growth alongside it. The alternative is fall in creative people exporting goods across the world, a rise in the welfare bill as people cannot get secure jobs elsewhere and a damaged economy as a major exporting sector struggles to keep itself going.
Thanks to the MakeGood Festival and to Sage UK for the invite.