Practice makes perfect: why vocational education is essential to the creative industries

13 Feb 2018

“A role within the creative industries is not only ‘what you know’ but also, and perhaps more importantly, ‘what you do with what you know.’”

- Rob Finder, Academic Coordinator, SAE Oxford



The creative industries are increasingly important to the UK. In 2016, the creative industries accounted for £91.8bn to the UK economy and has also been reported to contribute approximately £10.5m every hour. However, the importance of the creative field is not strictly limited to its financial offering, it is also intrinsically linked to our culture. The UK’s reputation in music, film, animation, gaming and the web, for example, forms our cultural identity and helps shape who we are as a nation. Other countries look to us for inspiration, as leaders and game-changers in the creative industries.

As a result, there is high demand for skilled creative professionals to cater for the ever-growing consumer demand. We need skilled filmmakers, games programmers, audio engineers and animators, amongst other creative professionals, to be able to not only increase but to sustain our prevalence on the world stage through our various creative outlets. It is therefore paramount that talented people that want to work in the creative industries are provided with the best possible education in order to ensure they are able to enter the workforce and make a meaningful contribution.

Just like other routes to employment such as apprenticeships, there needs to be a focus on vocational training in order to make sure that the creative industries are driven by people who understand the technical aspects behind their chosen field.

At SAE Institute, students are provided with hands-on, practical, 2 year accelerated degrees across six subject areas: Animation, Audio, Film, Games, Music Business and Web. With industry-standard equipment and facilities housed in each of their four state-of-the-art campuses across the UK in Glasgow, Liverpool, London and Oxford, SAE prides itself on providing talented individuals with quality education that prepares them for the industry.

Rob Finder, Academic Coordinator, SAE Oxford, explains the benefit of creative students learning practical skills.

"Similar to learning a musical instrument, practical skills, and practice, are key in order to develop and improve the skills of creative media professionals. Teaching practical skills grants students the opportunity to learn through trial and error; to apply their skills and experiment.

Through learning practical skills, students are able to see, or hear, the outcome of their learning. Rather than absorbing and reciting information, learning practical skills allows students to measure their learning and success through the quality of their work. They are empowered to apply their technical and practical skills in order to reach a creative outcome.

A role within the creative industries is not only ‘what you know’ but also, and perhaps more importantly, ‘what you do with what you know’. Students at SAE Institute are consistently improving their skills through practical learning, which culminates in a portfolio or showreel for prospective employers or clients.

At SAE Institute we focus on the learning and application of practical skills vital to a career in creative media. This is beneficial, not only within the context of students’ education, but also to their industry. Equipping students with practical skills ensures they are prepared to make a positive and meaningful contribution to the creative industries."

Graduates from SAE have gone on to win Grammys, Oscars and BAFTAs in various areas of the creative industries, making a mark in their respective field. Students at SAE embark on accelerated two-year degree, which not only reduces costs but launches them into their dream career ahead of their competition.

While practical skills are vital, there is a need to blend this training in with theoretical knowledge. James Clarke, Digital Film Production and Animation Programme Coordinator, SAE London, explains more:

"Underpinning all that we do here at SAE is really founded on the relationship between theory and practice. What this means is that the practical work that our students do in our Film and Animation degrees is never only just about 'using' the kit, it's about recognising that the hardware and software are tools that will allow you to express an idea.

As such, our students are encouraged to develop their creative sensibility by developing an understanding of narrative, of audience, of traditions and ways of storytelling that they can then work with and make their own in practical terms. This is practical work for sure and it's also anchored in supporting the students in developing their project managing skills and their interpersonal and collaborative skills.

This is very much what industry preparedness is about; being able to work as part of a team and being able to find ways to solve a problem. It's not enough for our students to only 'know' how to use kit or develop a concept, the practical projects they undertake are also intended to develop their sense of a creative identity that they can use to 'promote' themselves as students and beyond their time with us.”