THE BLOG
11/10/2013 08:43 BST | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

STEAM is the Answer to Britain's Skills Crisis

Despite all the good news about the economy, Britain remains in the midst of a crisis.

Over one million young people aged between 16 and 24 are currently out of work. To put that another way, that's one in five of the most savvy, socially aware and digitally connected generation this country has ever seen unemployed - an army of talent lying waste.

One of the ways that the Government is looking to address this is through the promotion of STEM subjects - Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths - and creation of specialist STEM centres. As important as these subjects are, their promotion has led to the serious marginalisation of art and creative subjects in school and at best lead to a one-sided, rather than rounded education.

This focus of STEM subjects does an injustice to the importance of creativity, and leads to the myth that the creative industries don't contribute to the British economy. In fact, thriving creative industries are exactly what's needed for a thriving economy. Currently, the creative industries generate £70,000 a minute and account for 10% of exports. And indeed most industries need creative thinkers too.

There was clear evidence of this in the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sports committee's report on Supporting the Creative Economy, which recommended the same importance be placed on the arts as any other subject. This changing of STEM to STEAM is something I applaud and have been championing for many years.

Arts subjects are vital to young people. While it's clear not every student who studies drama, music or fashion is destined to become the next Benedict Cumberbatch, Adele or Stella McCartney, the confidence and creativity gained from creative study play a key role in developing the skills every employer craves: problem solving, generating ideas, teamwork. After all, it is no coincidence that 34 per cent of chief executives from FTSE 100 companies have an arts background.

Employers have been lamenting the fact that graduates aren't 'job-ready'- but recruits cannot be held to blame for this. Much of education puts the emphasis on independent study and learning how to pass exams which works for some. Too many others are written off as failures before they have the chance to develop talents that are perfect for the modern workplace or indeed for setting up a business which is just as important.

At Creative & Cultural Skills, we spend much of our time engaging with businesses from the creative industries. We help them take on apprentices, interns and trainees with talent and passion for what they do, young people capable of making a genuine and long-lasting contribution to their organisation often in jobs that their teachers haven't heard of: craft jobs, digital roles, technical jobs and even start-up businesses. Many such jobs need the ingenuity, discipline, tenacity and creativity that is honed by taking lessons drama, music,art and design. Even our country's engineers, doctors and scientists can benefit from this.

I welcome the recommendations made in the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sports committee's report. Getting the balance right between arts and STEM subjects is something we should all be striving for - we'll all feel the benefit of a more skilled and motivated workforce.