The UK games business could generate £1 billion more sales by 2014 if it can overcome a failing educational system and reach out to students and teachers currently ignorant of the real opportunities in videogame creation.
That's the findings of the Livingstone Hope review, released today and backed by NESTA and Skillset, which finds a mismatch between potential growth and the awareness of the UK's previous excellence in videogame creation and production.
Further detailing the "worrying lack of awareness" revealed back in December amongst students, teachers and parents, today's report states that the education system is simply not equipping budding talent with the skills needed by the games industry.
Of the 1585 graduates from 141 specialist videogame courses in 2009, only 12 per cent secured a job within six months of leaving college or university. However, graduates of the nine industry-accredited courses were three times as likely to gain employment as those graduating from non-accredited courses.
According to the review, only 5 per cent of UK art, ICT, maths and sciences teachers think physics in one of the most important subjects for a career in videogames - a subject the report considers "vital".
Ian Livingstone, co-author of the report and life president of Eidos, said that now is the time for major changes to the educational system if the UK wants to be central to a new golden age of development driven by the digital games economy.
"Videogames production plays to the UK's twin strengths of creativity and high-technology and ticks all the boxes for the digital economy. But despite young people being passionate about videogames, they are unaware that games such as Grand Theft Auto and SingStar were developed in the UK and unaware of the career opportunities in the UK.
"We need to transform young people's passion to play videogames into a desire to make them, whilst equipping them with the right skills for the industry. In the brave new online world, a second 'golden age' for the UK games industry beckons. It's an opportunity which shouldn't be missed."
Three of the key findings of the report are:
- "Computer science must be part of the school national curriculum. The current curriculum includes ICT, but the authors of the report argue that ICT, with its focus on every day applications such as word processing, does not teach the valuable computer programming knowledge that is vital to high-tech industries such as videogames and visual effects."
- "Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) should include industry-accredited specialist courses in videogames and visual effects in their list of 'Strategically Important and Vulnerable' subjects that merit targeted funding. With such a confusing range of courses and low-level awareness of the skills needed for careers in these industries, the authors argue that even the best courses need some targeted support, as long as it is matched by a commitment from industry, such as in the form of industrial scholarships to the very brightest students on these courses."
- "Young people must be given more opportunity to study art and technology together."
The report calls for schools to promote and teach art and technology and for art and computer science to be included in the English Baccalaureate.
"The videogames and visual effects industries are a phenomenal success story for the UK, but in the face of increasing competition from overseas, we can't afford to fall asleep at the wheel," offered Hasan Bakhshi, director of creative industries for NESTA's Policy and Research Unit.
"The review has shown us that we must act now to equip young people with the technical and creative skills to continue this legacy and grow this multi-billion pound sector in the UK."
The 20 recommendations made by the report to transform the UK's videogame and digital effects industries follow:
- Recommendation 1. Bring computer science into the National Curriculum as an essential discipline.
- Recommendation 2. Sign up the best teachers to teach computer science through Initial Teacher Training bursaries and 'Golden Hellos'.
- Recommendation 3. Use videogames and visual effects at school to draw greater numbers of young people into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) and computer science.
- Recommendation 4. Set up a one-stop online repository and community site for teachers for videogames and visual effects educational resources.
- Recommendation 5. Include art and computer science in the English Baccalaureate.
- Recommendation 6. Encourage art-tech crossover and work-based learning through school clubs.
- Recommendation 7. Build a network of STEMNET and Teach First videogames and visual effects Ambassadors.
- Recommendation 8. Introduce a new National Video Games Development and Animation Schools Competition.
- Recommendation 9. Design and implement a Next Generation of Video Games and Visual Effects Talent Careers Strategy.
- Recommendation 10. Provide online careers-related resources for teachers, careers advisers and young people.
Universities, Colleges and Vocational education
- Recommendation 11. Develop kitemarking schemes, building on Skillset accreditation, which allow the best specialist HE courses to differentiate themselves from less industry-relevant courses.
- Recommendation 12. HEFCE should include industry-accredited specialist courses in their list of 'Strategically Important and Vulnerable' subjects that merit targeted funding. Industry commits to these courses through industrial scholarships and support for CPD for lecturers.
- Recommendation 13. Raise awareness of the videogames and visual effects industries in the eyes of STEM and arts graduates.
- Recommendation 14. Give prospective university applicants access to meaningful information about employment prospects for different courses.
- Recommendation 15. Develop a template for introducing workplace simulation into industry-accredited videogames and visual effects courses, based on Abertay University's Dare to be Digital competition.
- Recommendation 16. Leading universities and FE colleges sponsor a high-tech creative industries University Technical College (UTC), with clear progression routes into HE.
- Recommendation 17. Kitemark FE courses that offer students the best foundation in skills and knowledge to progress into Higher Education.
Training and continuous professional development
- Recommendation 18. Skillset Creative Media Academies and e-skills UK's National Skills Academy for IT to work with industry to develop specialist CPD training for videogames and visual effects industries.
- Recommendation 19. Support better research-oriented university-industry collaborations in videogames and visual effects.
- Recommendation 20. Continue to treat the 18 visual effects occupations on the Government's shortages list as shortage occupations.
The full report can be downloaded here.