Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Skillset


  1.1  Skillset, Sector Skills Council (SSC) for the audio visual industries, covers television, film, radio, interactive media, computer games, animation and photo imaging.

  Skillset is a UK wide, industry-led orgainsation licensed by Government to tackle the skills and productivity challenge by sector.

  1.2  Skillset was one of the first SSCs to receive its license and, after the publication of the Governments White Paper: 21st Century Skills, was selected as one of just four Pathfinder SSC tasked with pioneering Sector Skills Agreements.

  In May 2005 Skillset published three detailed skills strategies for film, television and interactive media, nine English regional skills strategies and separate and distinct strategies for both Wales and Scotland. We are currently working on developing a strategy in Northern Ireland.

  After negotiations with our public agency partners in England and the devolved administrations to achieve their support and commitment, we now have three Sector Skills Agreements for England, Scotland and Wales.

  1.3  Our Interactive Media Skills Strategy was developed in partnership with the Skillset Interactive Media Forum, Chaired by Andrew Chitty, Managing Director, Illumina Digital, and the Skillset Computer Games Skills Forum, Chaired by Ian Livingstone OBE, Acquisitions Director of Eidos, both of which are made up of leading industry representatives who guide and inform all of Skillset's work in these sectors. (A full membership list of both forums is attached appendix (not printed here). The forum and development of the strategy is an achievement in itself as it marks the first time this hugely diverse sector—which lacks many common definitions—has come together and identified the issues and agreed consensus on collaborative action.

  The strategy has developed an action plan detailing the industries skills needs and solutions—Creating the Future: The UK Skills Action Plan. (Full copies are available on our website

  1.4  This submission has been prepared specifically for consideration by the Committee but does quote sections from the action plan, which are clearly highlighted.


  2.1  There are considerable difficulties in scoping the sector, not only in terms of its vast and diverse spread of activities but also because the sector is not currently classified under SIC and SOC codes.

  Skillset's research has produced conservative figures on the size of the industry which should be viewed as indicative only. We have identified that the sectors within interactive media differ considerably in their geographical distribution throughout the UK.

  Specifically, web and internet employment is much more London-centric. Three fifths of the workforce is employed in London, one fifth in South East, and the remaining fifth is distributed fairly evenly throughout the remainder of the UK. Both computer games and offline multimedia have the South East as their largest regional base, with over one third of each workforce based there, with London in second place accounting for 16% of employment in computer games, and 25% in offline multimedia. Other significant bases for the computer games sector include the West Midlands (12%), the North West (11%), and Yorkshire and Humberside (10%). The next largest community of offline multimedia employment is in Wales (13%).

  Within the audio visual industry as a whole, the proportion of the workforce qualified to graduate level is exceptionally high, at 66%. However, all three interactive media sectors greatly exceed even this level of graduate employment. In total, 86% of those in web design and development are graduates, 69% of those in computer games, and 91% of those in CD Rom and other multimedia.


  3.1  New technologies in the games industry (in particular the cyclical nature of games consoles) has resulted in significant issues for the skills needed by the games workforce. Increasingly studios are taking on more staff for technical roles in programming and art, and consequently more staff are needed to manage the larger teams.

  This has resulted in a shortage of talented team leaders and project managers and games companies are seeing increasing amounts of risk associated with this aspect of the production cycle. In order to offset the huge amount of financial significance of delivering assets late, or off model, companies are relying heavily on project managers and producers. The industry has realized that this is an area of skills development that needs support if the industry is to make its next technological transition successfully.

  From the action plan: Project Management is a significant gap and shortage for the industry as it requires companies and individuals to plan and manage, uniquely combining artistic, technical and production skills and team.

  In both sectors convergence and technological change also have an impact on the technical skills of the workforce—new techniques are needed to deal with producing work for new platforms, and increasingly, interactive media and games products are expected to be delivered to function on a variety of devices.

  This will impact especially on degree courses:

  From the action plan:

  It is recognised by industry that it takes time to develop and validate undergraduate degree courses and that the current formality and timescales of curriculum development make it a challenging prospect to develop the courses fast enough to respond to industry need, but it is felt that they tend not to move quickly enough to keep pace with the industries' skills requirements or to provide the student with the robust and wide range of skills needed for the industry. Not only is there the need to tailor interactive media related courses to industries' needs but industries would like course content to be delivered in a more flexible and modular way.

  Degree level courses have an emphasis on enduring skills and "learning how to learn", rather than on transient, software or platform specific ones in isolation. Any teaching of specific software packages must be in an applied context and should be used as a means to an end (the learning of high-level concepts, principles and techniques) rather than being the end in itself.

  3.2  As well as specialist and general skills, practitioners working in Interactive Media need an all-round awareness of the industry, its processes and business issues as a whole. Successful practitioners need to be self-motivated and autonomous, and have the right entrepreneurial attitude and a willingness to continue learning and taking advantage of the opportunites afforded by new technologies.

  This need for companies and individuals to understand new markets and new opportunities has been identified in Skillset's research—possible solutions are in development by Skillset:

  Industry Induction Programme and supporting materials that will be available on-line and through events to be used by employers, education providers, and festival organisers, to ensure that all individuals hoping to work in the industry understand the many sectors, types of companies, and variety of job roles.

  Business Development Schemes to provide contextualised business support for those companies to remain in business, to grow and, in particular, for interactive media and games companies, to understand how to exploit new markets and platforms for their products.

  Accreditation programs for courses in animation and computer games are being piloting by Skillset. The assessment criteria for these schemes focus on relevant skills in the workplace and recommend that students are made more fully aware of employment rights and responsibilities with regards to possible career destinations. This will improve prospective new entrants understanding of relevant IP and copyright legislation and their appreciation of why it is vital for businesses in this sector.


  4.1  Steps that should be taken—from Skillset's point of view—on the issue of the management and exploitation of IP and IP rights involve educating interactive media and games practitioners on the relevant issues—through induction programs, CPD and business development. If further steps are taken it will be important that practitioners are aware of them and can utilize new initiatives to protect their IP.

  The industry has identified a number of programmes that would enhance understanding and Skillset is currently awaiting confirmation of funding from DTI to develop and implement a suite of CPD courses to support the industry in this area through training including:

    —  Asset exploitation and management.

    —  Marketing and brand awareness.

    —  Risk Management.

    —  Outsourcing and Partnership Management.

    —  Mergers and acquisitions and legal awareness.

    —  Technical expertise in digital security, anti-piracy technologies and ability for companies to build systems that seamlessly integrate these functions.


  5.1  In addressing the issues surrounding emerging and new technologies and the unique intellectual property challenges they present it is vital that Government recognises and prioritises the need for skills development amongst the workforce. In addition to legislative protection, understanding and knowledge across the sector must be kept up to date in order for that legislation to be implemented and of practical use. The work of CREATE (the Creative Industries Forum on Intellectual Property in particular) as is the newly announced Creative Economy Programme and Skillset will feed these issues into both those reviews. The training and development of the workforce in this area is of paramount importance if future IP and copyright legislation is to have any meaningful and beneficial impact to the industry as a whole.

27 February 2006

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