We’re not the clever country if we’re not a creative country
In 2007/2008, the creative industries contributed $31.1 billion in industry gross product to the Australian economy, which is equivalent to 2.8% of GDP, and employed 316,600 workers.
The creative industries achieved an average annual growth rate of 5.8% over the last 11 years to 2007/2008, well above the annual growth rate for the broader economy of 3.6% over the same period. The Software Development and Interactive Content segment is responsible for much of this growth, accounting for 43.8% of earnings and 38.3% of jobs in 2007/2008.
The games industry in particular is a fast-growth industry in which Australian opportunities are shaped by large international enterprises. This growth is dependent on sustaining a pool of highly skilled workers. Technical creative and business skills have been in high demand over the last decade. However, a serious shortage of skilled employees is a major factor contributing to the almost $2 billion trade deficit in Australia’s digital content industry.
Moreover, the severe impact of the global financial crisis on the Australian games industry demonstrated both its dependence on international opportunities and its consequent volatility.
The structure of the workforce and the industry’s dependence on international games supply chains and markets inhibit growth in productivity and innovation in business models and markets.
This is reflected in current industry trends. Justin Brow is Director of the Interactive Skills Integration Scheme (ISIS) project which is exploring new business and training models for the sector.
For Brow, “the collapse of some of the larger Australian games development companies has resulted in companies moving away from the increasingly unsustainable ‘fee for service’ model towards digital distribution of original IP through apps stores and social networking sites”.
“From a skills development perspective, we need to keep the skills of our local workforce worldclass and this includes doing what we can to encourage innovative cross-industry IP creation.
Business and process transformation of non-entertainment industry sectors represent a big opportunity for the games industry and could lead to a heightened demand for interactive media skills across every industry sector in Australia, examples here include simulations in defence, stroke rehabilitation using the Wii console or the ‘Mathletics’ games they use throughout Aussie Primary Schools”.
The 60Sox Survey was the first ever national survey of graduates and employers in the digital content sector and it found that the skills deficit mainly stems from the gap between what is taught in academia and what is practised in industry.
There is a generally a gap between the qualifications aspiring creatives receive, and the industry-ready skills that employers require.
This gave the respondents the impression they have good employability, job-specific and career skills – when the skills that they think are important are not what employers in the industry actually want.
Another key issue which hinders graduates from gaining employment is their lack of industry engagement: only 13 per cent of the 60sox respondents had been directly involved with real work in industry.
Most of digital graduates rely on online networks to get jobs. They need to know that face-to-face networking with the industry is crucial to gain both employment and skills.
The industry can also help aspiring students by offering internships, mentoring relationships and by inviting students to take part industry events.
Given the ever-shifting nature of new media business environments, Interactive Media organisations face increasing challenges to operate most effectively.
It is necessary, therefore, to equip leaders within the Interactive Media sector with the requisite skills to make informed business decisions and develop appropriate management strategies to better navigate short and mid-term industry demands.
Aspiring creatives need to have the right knowledge, skills, attributes and qualifications to enter the creative industries; and once employed, access to incentives and support to enable them to have a sustainable and successful career.
Addressing these challenges will involve, but not limited to, providing aspiring creatives with opportunities to gain industry experience as early as possible; ensuring education and training providers and industry work together to develop, deliver and quickly adjust courses; changing employers negative perceptions of the capabilities of aspiring creatives; and helping aspiring creatives to become lifelong learners and effective networkers.
These actions will go a long way in helping the creative industries to create a pool of new workers who have the necessary skills sets to generate, share and monetise new ideas and knowledge.
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