Why we should be focussing on a creative education

In week 6, I controversially (for some) wrote “we don’t need anymore factory workers”, and was criticized for it, with people claiming that we would always need factory workers. I would like to use this weeks blog to justify my perspective.

In 2009, the manufacturing sector only employed 8% of the UK workforce. Between 1994 and 2009, eighteen out of the twenty-two industries within the manufacturing sector witnessed large declines. Only four industries witnessed growth: food and drink; medical and precision instruments; chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and bioscience; and aircraft, rail, marine, and motorcycles. It is a sector in decline. (These stats are from a 2010 Manufacturing sector review).

It is particularly interesting to note that the manufacture of office machinery and computers also saw declines in that period, despite the growing ubiquity of computers, mobile phones and tablets in our lives. This indicates to me that we are failing to capitalize on technological trends, because we aren’t producing graduates capable of making a difference.

Meanwhile, Manchester and London are the two creative industry centers in Europe, and the creative industry in the UK grew at an average of 6% per annum between 1997 and 2005, by which time it accounted for 7% of total UK GVA, while the manufacturing industry accounts for just over 11%. In short, the creative industry, in which the UK is a pioneer, is going to overtake the manufacturing industry.

There’s nothing wrong with not manufacturing. However, what it means is that we are going to have to become pioneers and world leaders in other fields – or risk having nothing to offer in exchange for the goods other countries manufacture (far more cheaply than we can afford to do so), in addition to dealing with high unemployment levels.

According to Fisch and McLeod (2010) the top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010 did not exist in 2004. We are training leaners for jobs that don’t yet exist. We can hazard a guess at some of the technologies that are sure to grow in the coming decade: pharmaceuticals, renewable energy resources, biofuels. However, a blog by Thomas Frey, Google’s top rated futurist speaker paints a much clearer picture of just how many avenues of work lie just around the corner.

According to Frey, one area set to explode in the next decade is data analysis, with the amount of data businesses have access to set to grow to fifty times its current level over the next decade. This will require waste data managers, privacy managers, data retrieval specialists, and will create thousands of jobs for those with the necessary skills.

One things for sure, if we aren’t educating people to be passionate about learning and enthusiastic about embracing and developing new technologies, then they won’t be able to adapt to a job market that is changing rapidly to keep up with technology. However, as Einstein said, “in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity”. Every child is born equipped with the passion to learn and experiment with the world around them, new technology included (just think back Jesse’s video of Cai playing with his iPad).

In my opinion, the way schools are run eliminates this innate and natural instinct, and forces children to conform to what policy makers think they should be learning. I would argue that children who end up working in creative industries do so in spite of traditional state funded education, not because of it. Unless we fundamentally change the classroom, and our perception of the purpose of education, we will continue running ourselves into economic stagnation.

1 comment
  1. psub69 said:

    I completely agree with you here Declan. Teaching people to be creative is similar to teaching people adaptability, so that graduates of education can fit with changes to the job market and work. I certainly don’t think that the working world should be held back because of a lack of skills. Right now, I don’t feel I have gained many skills truly useful in the working world, which on one hand makes me like a blank slate, ready to learn and adapt to many jobs if training is available. As long as people are willing to train others, and people are ready to adapt, I don’t think any problem exists.

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