Manimation ’15 Report – Training and Skills: Gaps, Levies and Commitments

Posted on: Tuesday 24 November 2015 11:01pm by Kath Shackleton

This was a lively panel discussion exploring solutions to recruitment problems, including schools, pre-Higher Education and apprenticeships.

Belinda Peach (Peachy Media) introduced the session.

This a really exciting time for the animation and VFX industries.  However, recruitment remains a big issue.  47% of companies in our sector are struggling to recruit new talent compared to just 5% in other sectors.

Jean Flynn (CHF Entertainment)
Explained some of their difficulties at Cosgrove Hall Fitzpatrick in recruiting animation staff for children’s TV series production in Manchester.

Erica Clarke (Creative Skillset)
Described her work across the North, with a wide range of employers and educators and feeding their ideas into Creative Skillset’s Northern Skills panel.

Paul Bason (MMU)
Talked with great excitement about the success of their new animation course at Manchester School of Art, plus their amazing VFX  course and other courses which have been doing well in other aspects of the Creative Industries.

Daniel James (Animation graduate)
Took us on his journey from his degree course to his first job as an armature maker for Animation Toolkit.

Katherine Wilding (Apprentice -Skout PR)
Explained why for her an apprenticeship was far better than going to university.

What is industry looking for in recruits? How can education support this?

  • Drawing skills are still key.  Software can be taught, but the core talent needs to be there.
  • People are noticed who have made their own films, who bring sketchbooks and show their potential.
  • Soft skills – can you work in a team, can you take direction?
  • Can you take an idea and really build on it?

How does industry connect with entry level talent?

Daniel connected with Animation toolkit on his own initiative, whilst on his course.  He first contacted them on Twitter (as he is a bit shy!) and met up and they offered to help.

He got some work experience at CITV and they helped to fund Daniel’s final year university project.

On graduation, he did some volunteering to help them move into their new offices.  Then he learned to silver solder and is now an employed armature maker.

Lots of people only think about work placements in the third year of their courses, Daniel highly recommends doing this in your first year, to get maximum experience (before your student loan runs out!)

Katherine  didn’t want to go to university, so applied for an apprenticeship in the PR industry.  She felt by working practically in the industry she could gain contacts and knowledge ahead of those who have been to university.

Erica explained how Creative Skillset is working with education, giving their “tick” accreditation for courses that have good relationships with employers and offer work placements.  It’s about ensuring that graduates are work ready.  With the best will in the world, education is a simulated environment – there is no substitute for real work experience.

Trainee Finder is a scheme that helps graduates get their first jobs in the industry.  They are fully paid and supported over a period of time.  The scheme has been a great success. My own company (Fettle) has benefitted considerably from the injection of new talent.

How can education engage with talent?

Lots of questions ..

  • How do young people find out about what opportunities are available in the Creative Industries?
  • Are schools delivering appropriate careers advice?  There is no cohesive programme to show young people, their parents or their teachers what is out there.
  • Could there be more outreach work from the universities to inspire young people and their parents about the real job opportunities in the Creative Industries?
  • The barriers to entry in animation are down with affordable technology – are teachers and pupils taking full advantage of the opportunities to make their own media?
  • Animation can really help children who are not traditionally academic to find a spark to inspire their learning.  Initiatives to encourage young people to make their own films are much needed.

Creative Skillset have piloted a scheme in London, called Open Doors, where employers are invited to engage with local young people.  This has been really successful, and could be be brought up north.  There’s a new project in February for the VFX sector which may also provide a good model.

Creative Skillset training levys

These are helping significantly with recruitment and training.  These are voluntary contribution from employers who have taken advantage of the tax break, into a larger funding pot, matched by government funding, which can be drawn down for in-house training.

Animation has the highest award for any sector so far with £276K being spent on the sector! Thanks to the sterling efforts of our own Helen Brunsdon who also works for Creative Skillset!

They also have an Apprenticeship Levy,  to encourage businesses to take on apprentices. It’s for larger companies at the moment, but they are considering extending this to smaller companies.

There are currently no agreed standards for animation apprenticeships – this is beeing looked at to ensure quality.

The role of universities

Universities have a tough job keeping up with the speed of change in the digital world! Students have a lot to learn, and those three years are the only time in your life where you have the space to find out what you want to be.

At MMU they are really keen on building strong relationships with animation companies and developing a range of live projects to give their students the real world experience when they leave.

Exciting challenges ahead, and strong partnerships will be the key to success!

Event Reports Manimation Blog

Kath Shackleton

About the author

Kath Shackleton

Fettle Animation, Producer

Kath Shackleton is producer of Fettle Animation, a 2D Studio based in Marsden, near Huddersfield in West Yorkshire. She set up her company with her partner Zane Whittingham, an animator with over 25 years’ experience. They produce award winning character animation for broadcast, web and digital devices. Their animated documentary… Read more