At 10 years old I wasn’t interested in breakfast TV or games in the playground before school. I got up especially early to build civilisations and wage war before eight o’clock in the morning. All through a computer game, of course. Computers were my first stop for entertainment before TV or books and remained the case as I grew up, though in true teenager fashion, my early mornings soon changed to late nights.
Now, freshly graduated, I wonder why I studied English Literature for three years when I naturally lean towards computing rather than reading. The IT and computing sector is the most significant component of the UK creative economy, accounting for 31 per cent of jobs (nearly 800,000) within a sector including marketing, film, music and publishing, according to UK government statistics. Why then, when I had a natural affinity for it, and when so many people are employed by the sector, was it invisible to me and so many of my peers as a potential career pathway?
I think I have to look all the way back to when I was 10, when IT and computing took a back seat in the classroom. Things didn’t improve as I got older; in secondary school IT was seen as dull, irrelevant and distinctly uncool by students, and of secondary importance as a core subject by the teachers. Just another qualification to add to the list, and one that didn’t mean much.
Those attitudes alone are enough to deter whole classrooms from studying IT in more depth. I wasn’t aware of the vast array of creative jobs available for the computer savvy, and I certainly wasn’t aware that by choosing traditional arts based subjects at GCSE and A level I was actually cutting off the games industry as a career.
IT skills are increasingly important for all jobs across the creative economy. Take publishing, an industry that accounts for 10 per cent of jobs in the sector. Most graduates going into entry level publishing jobs will have a degree in a traditional arts-based subject, but publishing today is all about digital content, and a graduate with no IT skills is going to struggle to make themselves relevant. On my publishing MA course, we are learning that programming skills and the knowledge to use all types of office, design and web software could mean the difference between a job and unemployment.
Creativity is no longer about literature and the arts. It’s about technology. Perhaps that’s a mindset that schools should adopt to make sure that kids don’t miss out on or misjudge what is one of Britain’s most important industries. Now that technology is fundamental to creativity, education should reflect and encourage the teaching of it in more creative, and appealing ways – hopefully giving it a little more street cred on the way.
Photo credit: www.thecoolist.com
About the author
Emily Wells is studying for an MA in Digital Publishing at Oxford Brookes University and is working towards a career in the publishing industry. She writes about games and digital fiction at her website www.techpoet.org.