Industry experts talk skills gaps and career development at UCLan gathering

Students aiming to make it in the creative sectors need to be more entrepreneurial, able to manage their own brand identity and challenge established norms according to a panel of experts.

They were speaking at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), where 32 professionals from across the creative industry spectrum shared their thoughts on changes in the industry and how universities should respond to ensure they produce graduates who are equipped with the right knowledge and practical skills. Sectors represented included architecture, design, fashion, journalism, law, publishing and TV and music production.

Attendees included Patrick Grant, judge of the BBC’s Great British Sewing Bee and Company Director of Norton and Sons, Etautz and the Community Clothing Company, Ed Walker, Digital Editor for Reach Regionals (formerly Trinity Mirror Regionals) and Founder and Editor of Blog Preston and Dr Alex Connock, Managing Director of Missile Digital Studios.

Key points that came out of discussions were that graduates need to be self-starters who, whatever sector they work in, are able to optimise and distribute content through the right channels to the right audience. In industries that are as much about the gig-economy as long-term jobs, people are required more and more to push out their offerings in dynamic and innovative ways to make themselves stand out above the others.

Dr Alex Connock, Managing Director of Missile Digital Studios, said: “In today’s creative industries, graduates need to have transferable skills and be able to adapt to an ever-changing landscape. They need to be entrepreneurs and manage their own brand identity to clearly communicate what they’re about. I’m looking for someone who is versatile. Someone who can shoot and edit their own content and then know the best ways to distribute it so that it’s seen by the most relevant people.”

Other suggestions that came out of discussions were that new starters need to be disruptive and challenge the norm to push their industry forward, as well as having a basic grounding of how businesses work from finance to sales in order to fully understand a company.

Patrick Grant commented: “The design industry needs talented designers who are driven and willing to push themselves to always be better. The opportunities are certainly out there for those willing to go above and beyond and I personally enjoy working with graduates who have fertile young minds and are full of energy and new ideas.”

Ed Walker said: “The journalism talent pipeline needs graduates who are cutting-edge and have an ambition to make their mark both regionally and nationally. It’s essentially about telling stories, knowing when to challenge what you’re being told and always being adaptable in any situation.”

The gathering took place to launch the UCLan Leaders in Residence programme; a network of 54 experienced individuals that are working with the University to inform the curriculum, mentor students and provide work placements.

The Leaders in Residence programme comes at a time when creative industries are growing faster than any other sector in the British economy. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport recently reported they have smashed through the £100 billion a year mark in delivering to the UK economy, growing at twice the rate of the rest of the economy.

Jane Anthony, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Culture and the Creative Industries at UCLan, said: “Creative and digital industries are fast paced by nature, constantly innovating and adopting new technologies, so universities really need to keep their finger on the pulse of what is happening in industry so that our students are ready for the future.

“This network is about engaging industry across all aspects of our provision from curriculum development to student experience so that our graduates our highly employable. It ensures that our graduates have pathways from degree to employment and identifies growing sectors and skills gaps.

“This new relationship will help UCLan be responsive to those needs and make sure our courses are relevant and up-to-date and that we are encouraging the creative employees and entrepreneurs of the future.”

More information on the UCLan Leaders in Residence programme is available at