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Digital and creative skills should no longer be considered separate, says report

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Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre: Creative Digital Skills Revolution study

A report published today by the PEC (Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre) suggests that creative and digital skills should no longer be considered separate on an educational level, as creative jobs are ever more imbued with digital know-how.

Based on the fact that employers increasingly demand digital skills and creative skills combined, known as “createch” skills, The Creative Digital Skills Revolution research study looked to investigate what these skills are, which roles require them, and their importance to the future jobs market.

The PEC worked with data sourced from Burning Glass Technologies, the leading producer of online job advert data in published academic research, and analysed 35 million job adverts posted between 2011-2018. It found that the five occupations that mention “createch” skills the most were: graphic designers; photographers, audio-visual and broadcasting equipment operators; artists; arts officers, producers and directors; and product, clothing and related designers.

The study also suggests these “createch” skills are increasingly prominent in job ads and will continue to grow in importance, yet remain largely absent from education and government policy. Worryingly, co-author Eliza Easton (head of policy for the PEC) also says that many job adverts fail to mention any specific digital skills because it is assumed applicants will already have these skills.

It seems obvious to those at the coalface, as it’s increasingly rare to find creative projects without some sort of digital aspect, but at a government level, Eliza says digital and creative worlds are still disparate, which is a problem.

“From a political standpoint, lots of policies look at one or the other – art is still very much separate from tech,” says Easton. “I wanted to think about whether it’s even possible any more for jobs like graphic design to separate creative from digital? Or have they really become fused ‘createch’ skills?”

If you’re being asked to do graphic design, illustration, photography, sketching or storyboarding in a role, for instance, Easton says there is an assumption you will have digital skills to back that up. A common example is the assumption that anyone applying for a job in graphic design can use Photoshop, and these skills are so fused that many job adverts neglect to even mention Photoshop as a requirement.

“I’m sure it’ll be obvious home truths to those in the industry how important these skills are,” Easton says, “but what people don’t realise is just how far from that thinking policymakers can be. We still live in a STEM and creative world, where people are directed one way or the other, despite this increasingly important group of jobs and skills where you literally can’t separate the two.

“So this paper goes beyond saying people need both creative and digital skills to saying lots of jobs need creative digital skills, and that’s what people will be looking to hire in the future. For any policymaker or educator in this area, this fact needs to be inbuilt to courses and policy interventions.

“Technology is an amazing creative tool that’s become embedded in what we require from various creative roles, and policy needs to catch up.”

The Creative Digital Skills Revolution study is published by the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre together with innovation foundation Nesta, and can be read in full here.