Essay: Studying in the Creative Arts & Design sector – analysis and opportunities

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  • Studying in the Creative Arts & Design sector - analysis and opportunities
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I. Structure of the sector

I am a first-year student studying Bachelor of Science in Food, Health and Nutrition. I had considered studying something in the Creative Arts & Design sector so I thought it would be fitting to have a look at what my options would’ve been if I’d chosen to go down this route.

A. Who are the potential graduate recruiters within the sector?

Creative industries in the UK are mainly comprised of small-scale businesses who employ very few people. There are however some larger well-established business who are more likely to recruit graduates. Some are Grey UK, National Museum Wales, Harrods, Marks & Spencer, ASOS, ITV, BBC, Warner Music Group, Penguin Random House and many more. These are examples of more occupational specific jobs within the creative arts and design sector rather than businesses which do everything. There are also options of being self-employed, a freelancer in a specific field.

B. What are the most important locations in the UK for this sector?

Despite what many people think, graduates from this field wouldn’t need to move to a big city like London to get a job in this sector. There are various locations within the UK where there are many opportunities to work in this industry. Places include Liverpool which currently has over 7,000 businesses in this industry. Other places include Manchester, Cardiff, Newcastle upon Tyne, Birmingham and even Dundee.

C. What are the current challenges and opportunities for the sector/industry?

Due to the governmental policy which emphasised that students would need to take more ‘traditional’ subjects such as maths, biology and science for their GCSE’s, the number of students who have elected to taking creative subjects has dropped significantly. This has put a halt in the creative development of many students’ skills, and it hinders the chance for them to grow in this field.

Surprisingly, creative industries tend to be under-capitalised in the UK and have a shortage of skilled people available to work in this field.

This leads to lack of variation within the businesses.

Despite this, the value that the industry has brought to the economy has increased by 50% from 2010 to 2017. There are more than 2 million people working in creative industries and the number keeps growing. This sector itself is growing quickly and there are many job opportunities arising.

Thanks to the ever-evolving technological world, it bodes well for people interested in this sector as there will continue to be positions available to share creativity in many different forms.

II. Graduate Opportunities

A. What are the typical roles for graduates?

Creative industry related jobs are very competitive, employers are looking for candidates with the right combination of skills, experience and qualifications.

There are a wide variety of roles in this industry, examples are actor, animator, games artist, illustrator, interior designer, make-up artist, photographer, web designer and many more.

Due to the type of industry these graduates are entering into, they would’ve had to put together a portfolio from the time of entering university. Having a well put-together portfolio makes it a lot easier to get a job straight out of university. Due to the specific sector, graduates may have already established themselves in the market via social media, YouTube, blogs etc. which would show employers that they have experience.

Within this sector, Fine art had the lowest full-time employment at 36.4%, Performing arts had 41.8% and Design had the highest with 56.8%.

Occupation Employment Percentage

Fine Arts 36.4%
Performing Arts 41.8%
Design 56.8%

According to UCAS, in 2014/15 the top five occupations graduates landed in were:

1: Wholesale and retail trade

2: Arts, entertainments and recreation

3: Professional, scientific and technical

4: Accommodation and food service

5: Education

B. What is the range of starting salaries for new graduates?

To put things in perspective, I’m going to compare the average graduate salary to the starting salary of graduates in the creative arts & design sector. The average starting salary for graduates in 2020 in around £21,000 – £25,000. Occupations within this sector average at £25,858. That is on the higher side of the average salary.

C. Which are the most common entry routes for graduates?

Due to the highly competitive industry, it is beneficial for graduates to do freelance work, build their skills, networking the sector and establish their own brand confidently. The more formal way of doing this is doing unpaid internships, apprenticeships or volunteering work.

Joining other professional businesses and keeping up to date with various events, conferences, exhibitions, workshops, courses as well as being active on social media, will likely increase one’s opportunities to get noticed by industry professionals.

Larger organisations offer graduate schemes in design but throughout the sector it is quite uncommon. 89% of businesses within the creative industry employer less than 5 people.

Figure 1 – (Grove, 2018)

D. How and when do employers tend to recruit graduates?

Creative industries don’t tend to formally advertise their job vacancies due to it being so highly competitive. As a result, graduates need to network with various sector professionals in order to secure a position.

Due to employers looking for candidates with experience the hiring time may vary as graduates would need to make a name for themselves in the industry or at least get noticed by the professionals beforehand. It gives them time to build on their portfolios.

E. What are employers looking for? (e.g. degree subjects, grades, skills, experience etc)?

Due to the variety of roles in this sector, employers prioritise looking for something more specific to their business. Some employers look for more from candidates than others do.

• Qualifications:

Employers are interested in hiring candidates with a creative degree. There are many creative courses such as fine art, photography, fashion, computer arts, game design, product design, performing arts, music, illustration and many more. Depending on the field you’re looking at working in, will determine which degree best suits you. Short courses for skill building won’t go unnoticed by employers.

• Experience:

Employers are usually looking for candidates with work experience, this could be done through internships, apprenticeships, vocational courses and volunteer work. This shows employers that the candidates have learned and developed various skills in this sector.

• Skills:

Skills can vary from being creative and original ideas, the ability to work as part of a team, time management and effective planning skills and many more. The ability to work on the various programmes and software such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, AutoCAD, NanoCAD and many more. These practical programmes provide candidates with ‘hands-on’ experience which employers are interested in. The more variety candidates have in their skillset, the more valuable they will be the employer.

F. What is the current graduate labour market like for this sector (are the number of opportunities rising or falling)?

Opportunities are arising as it’s a fast-growing sector with insufficient skilled people. There are few positions available in the sector and very few skilled graduates which makes it a competitive market.

G. Tips for entry

• Portfolio: competitive

Having a well-tailored portfolio of work will demonstrate skills and potential to employers. This is a collection of candidates most impressive work to showcase their work to the employer.

• Personal Statement:

A strong personal statement or cover letter. This will show employer your passion, enthusiasm and interest in the occupation.

III. Self-Evaluation

A. What are the pros and cons of this sector as a career choice for you?

I think this sector allows you to showcase your creativity while being paid. It’s an ever-evolving sector and therefore you’d need to keep up with new software and various trends which gives you the skill of being able to adapt to new things.

A big downfall for me is how competitive the market is and one would probably need to have a backup plan as there aren’t enough jobs available for everyone in this sector. Only graduates with a variety of skills will be able to flourish in this sector.

B. From what you have read how well matched do you now feel for this sector?

I believe I have the necessary skills to be successful in various occupations within this sector. I enjoy being creative and seeing my ideas come to life. However, I am happy with the degree and the career path I have chosen to go down. I am aware that this is an option.

C. Please comment on any potential gaps in your profile (knowledge, experience, skills, etc.) and how you might overcome them.

I would need to build my portfolio a lot more while being diligent in practicing my skills every day.
I could join the more creative societies at the university to broaden my knowledge and meet people.
I could volunteer at art exhibitions, movie screenings,
I would need to go out and network more with professionals within the sector.

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