Where do jobs grow in the creative economy?

Where are the jobs being grown in the creative economy? What can we do to encourage better alignment of education and training for where the jobs are?
[This is archived content and may not display in the originally intended format.]

Where are the jobs being grown in the creative economy? What can we do to encourage better alignment of education and training for where the jobs are?

At the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative industries and Innovation, we have done detailed work on the growth in the creative workforce over a decade to 2006, based on the last 3 censuses that we have data from.

The growth is found in creative services (business to business activities like design, architecture, digital content, software development, advertising and marketing) at around 4.5%. That’s a plump two-and-a-half times the growth of the rest of the economy, which grew at 1.75% from 1996 to 2006. It is important to note that this growth in creative services occupations (the designers, content developers, communicators and so on) is not restricted to the creative services sector itself, populated by many small-to-medium enterprises.

Similar levels of growth are also found in the employment of creative occupations within other industry sectors – which we call the embedded workforce (such as designers employed by manufactures, architects by construction firms, and so on).

It is a different story for cultural production where employment has plateau-ed or declined (the sectors and occupations that focus on the production of cultural products and experiences for audiences and consumers – including film, television and radio, publishing, music, performing arts and visual arts).

Specialist film, television and radio, and publishing has plateau-ed, while music, performing and visual arts has declined against the national average. The only real growth over the decade for cultural production occupations is found in employment outside of the cultural production sectors – embedded in creative service sectors (3.1% growth) and across all other industries (2.3%).

It’s true that creative careers provide much more than economic returns for individual and the nation – and census data only tracks ‘main’ jobs, and not the secondary, cash-in-hand, volunteer and amateur work that many pursue. Nonetheless, the census-based employment stats offer clues for policy makers wanting to support our current and future creative workforce. It suggests a need to focus on the much wider contribution that creatives are making and can make to Australia’s productivity and economic growth. We need to ensure that we have an up-to-date picture of where creatively-minded students can find mainstream career prospects. We need to know much more than we do about career trajectories in the creative economy.

There’s almost no longer-term career tracking research of creative graduates in Australia. The Graduate Destination Survey, conducted far too soon after graduation, is almost worse than having nothing at all, as it tiresomely reiterates the fact that graduates from the arts and humanities take longer to find their feet than those whose career paths much more tightly aligned to the established salaried professions.

The UK government’s recent Higher Education White Paper, though deeply problematic in many ways, sets out an ambitious plan for collecting and publishing data on graduate destinations in England. We need a similar commitment in Australia – and it should come as a partnership between the education providers and the government.

The census analysis also throws down challenges for education and training. Are higher education course leaders and curriculum experts across trends in creative career patterns and shifting skill needs, and are they developing and delivering effective and responsive curricula that reflects these? One strong implication for arts and culture is that education and training cannot only be geared around craft skills.

Creative education and training needs to focus on the multidisciplinary challenges of fashioning sustainable careers in sectors that are more collaborative, more flexible, more global, more technologically innovative and more embedded in everyday enterprise than ever before.

Our research suggests that many of the intra- and inter-personal skills which are essential to all creative careers – enterprise; disciplinary agility; social network capability; complex problem solving; and career self-management – are best developed through non-traditional teaching and learning approaches which involve authentic industry experiences.

The role that perhaps exemplifies these non-craft skills the most is that of the creative producer, found across all cultural production and creative service domains – those people who link up makers with stakeholders, resources and audiences/consumers. The producer has become something of a trending topic within arts, film and cultural policy, and some education providers are starting to see the value of training this enterprising role.

The contribution that creatives make through their participation in the Australian workforce is growing strongly, with the strongest growth in creative services and embedded employment. Creative career trajectories need much better research, to inform creative education providers. Education and training need to augment traditional craft-based and studio approaches to embrace business sustainability, workplace learning and enterprise – including producers and other entrepreneurial roles across all cultural domains.

Authors: Stuart Cunningham (Director, CCI, Queensland University of Technology), Luke Jaaniste (Research Fellow, CCI), Ruth Bridgstock (Vice Chancellor’s Research Fellow, QUT Creative Industries Faculty) and John Banks (Senior Lecturer, QUT Creative Industries).

Stuart Cunningham
About the Author
Stuart Cunningham is the Director, CCI, Queensland University of Technology.