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Up Education

Action Needed to Grow Creative Economy to Support Recovery

12 Mar 2021

Calls from industry bodies to improve education pathways for Kiwis

An industry-sweeping whitepaper, released by UP Education and Yoobee Colleges, calls for urgent action to transform Aotearoa’s creative sector into an economic engine to drive New Zealand’s economic recovery and growth.

UP Education Group CEO Mark Rushworth says the paper, ‘Unleashing New Zealand’s Creative Economy’, was informed by the insights of industry leaders working within the creative sector and contains a series of recommendations to help grow the sector.

“The creative sector already adds $17.5 billion to our GDP and supports 131,000 jobs, but in many ways the sector is still in its infancy and the potential for growth in the creative economy is enormous,” says Rushworth.

“To understand the potential of the sector, we just need to look at Finland – a country that is of similar size to New Zealand. Through smart investment and government support, Finland has grown to be a world leader in interactive media with the sector being worth €2.1 billion. By comparison, New Zealand’s interactive media sector is worth just $143 million (€84 million)[1].

“There is no reason New Zealand can’t replicate Finland’s success and grow not only our interactive media sector, but our entire creative sector, and in the process grow and diversify our economy. But this won’t happen on its own – we need to take action.”

Informed by experts from Yoobee Colleges, Method, RocketWerkz, Auckland Unlimited (formally ATEED), NZ Tech, Māoriland Charitable Trust, The Rookies and more, the whitepaper recommends:

  • A formalised partnership between the sector and government to grow the creative economy through a Creative Sector Accord, that supports a policy framework and outlines a long-term roadmap for growth.
  • Embed creativity and technology into the curriculum at all levels of our education system.
  • A new Ministerial position, supported by a dedicated government agency, focussed on the development and growth of the wider creative industry.
  • Review our teacher training and better support teachers to teach STEM subjects and creativity, while taking urgent action to reverse Aotearoa’s declining reading, maths and science achievement levels.
  • Introducing new dedicated competitive funds and grants to support the production of new intellectual property, with a focus on those products with strong export potential.
  • Critically reviewing all existing support programmes with a focus on removing constraints to enable the funding and development of a new generation of creative productions.
  • Introduce an all-of-sector forum, representative of the wider creative industry, where key challenges and roadblocks can be worked through systematically.
  • Support the development of world class creative infrastructure to help draw international productions and expertise to Aotearoa.

“In the past, the Government has shown it is willing to invest and support economic development with programmes like the Provincial Growth Fund. Shifting some of this funding towards the creative sector would be a game changer and help support the growth of a knowledge economy similar to what is seen in California, Japan and Scandinavia,” says Rushworth.

“As a first step, we should be looking to accelerate our existing film and television sector given the impact COVID-19 is having on film production internationally. We should also be supporting the growth of the animation and gaming sector, which has already doubled exports in the last two years, and rethink how we educate to support creativity and innovation.”

Yoobee Colleges CEO Ana Maria Rivera says accessing high-quality graduates with the necessary skills remains a key industry challenge and is limiting the potential of the sector.

“A lack of job-ready graduates is a major impediment to the sector’s growth, and this means that creative businesses are increasingly having to compete offshore for international talent or relocate their businesses to creative hubs,” says Rivera.

“There are enormous employment opportunities for creative individuals – they are our innovators and thinkers. Whether it is web design, animation, programmers, marketing or specialist film production skills, the industry is crying out for more workers. For example, two-thirds of gaming studios report skill shortages that are hampering their growth.

“Supporting a skilled and innovative workforce will help our creative sector flourish and support the growth of new businesses and industries, not only now but into the future, as technology continues to change the way we work and live.”

“But critical to achieve this, is gearing our education system towards providing our young people with the skills they will need for the world of tomorrow. We need a digitally and creatively literate workforce, and that means addressing our relatively poor performance in STEM subjects and encouraging our children to embrace their creativity.

“One key element of this is addressing how creative technology is taught in primary, intermediate and high schools. At the moment, only 400 of New Zealand’s 3,500 teachers can teach digital skills in New Zealand.

“This is just part of the wider challenge we need to address. Aotearoa is blessed with a unique and large numbers of creative people with untapped skills and passion. Now’s the time to commit to developing the infrastructure to unlock this potential.

[1] NZ Game Developers Association