- Updated Research Questions
- Institutional Thinking
- Government Thinking
- Business Thinking
- Personal Thinking
- Student Thinking
- Educational Thinking
- Media education thinking
- Critical discourse thinking
- Conclusion & Summary
- Periodical Publication
In this essay I will provide a literature review as another starting point to develop my research for the Doc Ed programme at CEMP, Bournemouth. As recognised a literature review ‘is not an annotated bibliography in which you summarize briefly each article that you have reviewed’ (Morgan, 2014) it is much more of an evaluation and reflection upon the relevant literature that has been published which informs the topic of the research. As an early assignment as part of a taught doctoral programme, a literature review is a formative tool to develop ideas and formulations about the research topic.
At present, my (action) research topic is still based around the concept of building stronger pathways for students of creative and media subjects to link the work that they do in the classroom with the work that they may be able to take up and develop in the workroom. Essentially, I believe there is a ‘disconnect’ between the classroom and the workroom and I want to see what ideas and arguments underpin this relationship and how interested and invested parties understand and engage with this relationship. Specifically I am looking to answer the following four questions:
- What is the current landscape for career progression in the culture and creative industries?
- In particular, what is scope and reach of student’s employability within the creative and media sector once they have completed a post-16 A’ level course that has a focus on creative and media?
- How is it possible to introduce and develop a more structured career pathway for post-16 students, in the long shadows of government policies and strategic visions for the future of the creative industries?
- Is it possible to develop structured links between schools and local media and creative businesses to improve the connection between the ‘workroom’ and ‘classroom’?
Overall this paper should provide a useful opportunity to develop my own ideas and understanding by reading around the topic area under examination. For this assignment I have organised my research and studies into three main areas, as I found this to be an easier way to organise my research and hopefully provide a much easier way to engage with the literature that I have looked at. Although such a method maybe a crude way of compressing diverse approaches into neater categories just for the sake of an assignment, the organisation of a wide range of published material into a series of connected but stand-alone categories does help to contextualise the material and hopefully provide a way in which I am able to organise both my own thinking and my own approach to my research topic.
As such the way I have subdivided my literature review as follows:
- Institutional thinking: Governmental / policy thinking and a sense of business thinking. Specifically tracing the new cultural policy landscape created by New Labour and touching upon the possibilities that are now under development with the as yet unresolved, ongoing changes.
- Student thinking –Tales of difficulty, dreams and desires.
- Educational Thinking: a brief look at what media education may say in relation to my topic and briefly tracing a reconceptualization of the basis of media education from one of ‘demystification’ to something much more hybrid and contradictory, that includes the discourse of employability. Finally, within this section I want to look at Critical Thinking, to present and position a more critical and philosophical perspective on some of the work that I have looked at.
It is worth noting that the context of my own research is the island of Jersey, a Crown Dependency independent but connected to the UK; which essentially means that the island has its own government, education system and taxation system outside of UK jurisdiction, although in general it is closely aligned and follows UK policy.
Within the Jersey Education Business Plan 2015-18 one of the projects for ‘life-long learning’ is to ‘research current and future skills needs of the Jersey economy’ where ‘industries will be able to influence the development of vocational programmes to meet identified needs’. Similarly, one of the key actions for curriculum provision (number 21) is to collaborate with key stakeholders from Jersey’s industrial and commercial sectors to establish ‘relevant and appropriate content of general and vocational education for 14-16 and 16-19 year olds’. Among other criteria this entails:
- Map existing learning pathways and qualification based progression routes (both academic and vocational).
- Develop an agreed set of principles to be used to shape progression routes from 14-16 curriculum pathways to 16-19 curriculum pathways.
- Create close working relationships with industry and commerce – to include work placements, access to relevant expertise and experience and clarity over agreed employability skills and attitudes.
- Strengthen independent careers guidance relating to vocational education and provide easier access to this guidance.
(Education Business Plan, 2015)
All of which provide a contemporary context and referential framework towards my own study; perhaps working as part of a wider societal context which now looks much more closely at the relationship between education, training and employment. Indeed, from my own discussions with colleagues in a Faculty of creativity and technology we seem to be made much more aware of questions regarding future pathways and employability, than 5, 10 or 15 years ago. Indeed, subjects such as Media and Photography seem to occupy an ambiguous and difficult space between vocational and academic pursuit, in a way that many other subjects do not, as such, we are often asked about career pathways, possibilities and potential at open evenings or interviews with parents and students.
Therefore a good starting point to recognise a key ideological shift in terms of conceptualising the idea of a culture or creative industry (and thus pathway) is the introduction of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport which replaced Department of National Heritage in 1997, when New Labour entered into Government office, under the new Secretary of State, Chris Smith (1997-2001). In terms of public policy proposal his book Creative Britain (1998) ‘adumbrated some of the underlying thinking’ and presented a new shift which ‘replaced culture with creativity’ (Schlesinger, 2009, p. 12). As Schlesinger goes on to note ‘creativity policy became a national project, “branding” the United Kingdom as the global cutting edge . . . education and training and their articulation with the creative industries, therefore, have become key policy arenas.’ (ibid)
In a subsequent Government report, ‘Nurturing Creativity in Young People’ (Roberts, 2006), the intention from the outset was clear: ‘The Department for Education and Skills’ aim is to help build a competitive economy’ (p2), pointing out that ‘more people work in our Creative Industries than the steel, ship and textile industries combined.’(p 58), as such, ‘Britain has world-class capabilities when it comes to creativity’. Although the report warns that ‘it would be a mistake to believe that we are immune from the forces of global competition’. The report promotes skills acquisition as the route to success, ‘to work in teams, to share ideas, to identify problems and critically analyse solutions . . . these are the attributes most often valued by employers in particular when making recruitment decisions.’
The report also advocates the implementation of a new structure of courses and pathways, including AS / A levels (now currently under restructure) and is positive towards the range of vocational qualifications – ‘challenging perceptions that vocational skills are for the less able’. The report is also keen to promote the introduction of new Diplomas, which highlight the shift towards a greater inclusion and intervention between industry and education: ‘proper integration with other reforms in post-16 learning, such as apprenticeships and foundation degrees, provide a promising blueprint at least, potentially delivering a completely alternative qualification pathway than is available at present’. (p. 59)
So in many ways a shift of direction can be identified which has led to emergence of a new way of thinking about the links that could exist between education, industry, economy and employability, through ‘structured programmes such as work-based learning and apprenticeships’, with an action plan that comprises of (among other items):
- Better careers advice
- New qualification routes
- Work-based training
- Education business partnerships
- Mentoring networks
- Demand-led skills provision
All of which now appear to inform my own way of thinking and my own plans towards some action-based research that would seek to implement and develop a network of pathways that seek to work around the action plan bullet points put forward in the 2006 report above. However, how has this new ideology been understood and appropriated?
The main criticism that is raised in the report and has been subsequently recognised – certainly in my own initial research meetings – is the lack of private and public funding that is available and proactively looking to support new projects. The £70m Creative Partnerships programme administered by the Arts Council is one example of good practice, but overall how effective has this new policy vision been? What is the extent of change particularly within the context of recent criticism from the Russell Group among others who are putting pressure to return to a more traditionally academic framework for educational development, with less emphasis on vocational skills acquisition and more focus on a traditional form of academic knowledge building? Similarly, the advent of new GCSE and A level reforms seem to stand at a counterpoint to much of the strategic vision of the New Labour project.
The introduction to the article ‘Winning and losing in the Creative Industries’ (Communian, Faggian, & Jewell, 2011, p. 291) provides a clue as to some of the shortfalls of the New Labour project:
It is widely acknowledged in the literature that one of the impacts of New Labour cultural policy in UK has been a growing hype and positive representation of creative and cultural occupations (Banks & Connor, 2009). When New Labour policies came into place, they built on changing economic dynamics of contemporary society embracing the new paradigm of post-industrial, flexible and knowledge-based production. In this broader framework, all knowledge-driven industries were celebrated (Banks & Hesmondhalgh, 2009) but, more than any others, the creative industries. These industries that were defined as “[having] their origins in individual creativity, skills and talent” (DCMS, 1998) were presented as the new flagship of the UK economy. However, some academic studies showed the shortcomings and limitations of the sector, pointing out the very limited London-centric reach of its impact (Knell & K, 2007) and the real extent of its growth and expansion (Taylor, 2006)
So how has the literature on this ‘New Labour’ vision been realised, understood and assessed?
Stuart Cunningham provides some interesting reflection and evaluation on the ‘rationale for distinguishing between notions of cultural and creative industries which have implications for theory, industry and policy analysis’, for example he asserts that the term ‘Creative Industries’ is a fairly recent category in terms of academic, policy and industry discourse and cites, the Creative Industries Task Force Mapping document, as a defining source for understanding ‘activities which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have the potential for wealth and job creation’ (p. 5)
From a business economics perspective, it is interesting to look at non-governmental institutions, that is: companies, organisations and institutions that are not involved in policy or strategy, but are concerned with maintaining and developing their business. In my own preliminary research I have met with a number of local media and creative institutions who are generally most concerned with financial matters before any sense of altruism, philanthropy or pedagogy.
In The Creative Economy: How People make money from ideas, John Howkins suggests that ‘copyright, patent, trademark and design industries – together constitute the creative industries and the creative economy’ (2001, p. xiii), and while it is interesting to note what constitutes the creative and cultural industry, what is clear is that sustaining a business has a clear and central objective, which is in other words to make money to survive. Indeed, Banks and Hesmondalgh note that the UK and other governments are now ‘seeking more intensively to exploit cultural commodities, intellectual property and the panoply of goods and services underpinning the putatively emergent ‘creative’ or ‘knowledge economy’ (2009, p. 415) In terms of possible connections between the classroom and the workroom (which could form a nascent career pathway for post-16 students), among the creative sectors advertising, architecture and writing and publishing are the ones offering more job stability and higher economic rewards, while craft, performing arts, film and television and fine arts graduates are facing uncertainty and poorer work conditions. Although, overall, ‘creative workplaces are marked significantly by insecurity, inequality and exploitation’ (ibid). So as Communian et al write, ‘while there may be some “golden opportunities” for some creative graduates, the majority of them have poor career prospects’ (p. 305).
The Communian report, uses a lot of qualitative data to break down distinctions between different fields of employment with the broader categories proposed by the DCMS mapping document and also provides a lot of statistical information about how that is reflected in terms of choices students have made at HE institutions and where they have secured (or not) employment and career progression. The work also reflects on the geographical location where such careers can be developed. Reflecting on the policy aspirations created by New Labour they assert that ‘the hype surrounding the creative industries has created an “economic bubble” that has further expanded the provision of those skills [associated with creative industry training] without real corresponding opportunities’ (p. 305). Therefore, while any consideration of developing new pathways may involve “blue sky thinking’ in terms of theoretical approaches and ideas, when it comes to implementing such ideas into practice, the key principle for business is how this affects the internal economics of that particular structure. For example, payment for internships and trainees creates a significant issue for local employers looking to adopt new pathway of development; as is the time / resource cost for putting mentors and support in place – which, incidentally is a key issue identified by Ball et al in the Creative Careers report, see for example pages 8 & 13. Although as Ashton points out, part time work placements undertaken for little or no-remuneration are inextricably connected with the labour market of students’ “professional” potential future work contexts and their future career aspirations (Media work and he creative industries: Identity, work, professionalism and employability, 2011, p. 556). As such, one of the harsh realities of adult life for creative students maybe that they have to accept ‘more voluntary and unpaid work and . . . are more likely to be unemployed.’ (Communian, Faggian, & Jewell, p. 298).
A more pointed summary comes from Banks and Hesmondhalgh whose article seeks to show ‘how creative workplaces are marked significantly by insecurity, inequality and exploitation’ (Looking for work in creative industries policy, 2009, p. 415). Summarising a theoretically and empirically diverse range of studies they propose that the consistent finding is that:
Creative work is project-based and irregular, contracts tend to be short-term, and there is little job protection; that there is a predominance of self-employed or freelance workers; that career prospects are uncertain and often foreshortened; that earnings are usually slim and unequally distributed, and that insurance, health protection and pension benefits are limited; that creatives are younger than other workers, and tend to hold second or multiple jobs; and that women, ethnic and other minorities and under-represented and disadvantaged in creative employment. All in all, there is an oversupply of labour to the creative industries with much of it working for free or on subsistence wages. (p. 420)
However, there is still a steady supply of new students who wish to develop a career path that runs from media education into workplace opportunities and then hopefully some secure basis of full time work that helps to develop a clear career development. So what evidence is there to identify how that works, and what experiences do those involved in the process have of this? To explore this a little further it is worth looking at a set of literature that explores the personal experiences of those who have undergone this process. After which it is worth looking at the literature which discusses the ways in which educational frameworks position such possibilities and experiences.
In 2010 the Institute for Employment Studies, an independent, apolitical, international centre for research in public employment policy undertook a longitudinal study of the early career patterns of graduates in art, design, crafts and media practice-based subjects from 26 UK higher education institutions. The report, titled Creative Career stories, Creative Graduates, Creative Futures, brought together ‘voices of individual graduates reflecting on their own journeys, their hopes and fears, challenges and successes’ to focus on the ‘challenges of ‘making’ a career in the creative and cultural sector’ (Ball, Pollard, & Stanley, p. vi) and thereby presented an amazingly rich source of information to draw upon and a particularly relevant and key text for my own research, understanding and study. For instance, the report found a number of interesting and relevant conclusions, such as ‘larger proportions of graduates now work in the creative and cultural industries and in work related to their subject than did a decade ago’ (p2), that ‘they experienced high levels of work satisfaction and engagement with the creative industries, but sometimes at the expense of some disadvantage in terms of financial reward’ (p. 2). In this sense ‘graduates make a lifestyle choices when they choose a creative education and a creative outlook is already a way of life. After graduation, goals and aspirations remain focussed on creative practice’’ (p. ix) Overall, ‘creative practice provides graduates with an ideology that they take with them into their personal working lives’ (p. xi).
The report is fascinating in both its scope and its perceptive analysis, and highlights so many positive aspects of why young people seek to develop their own personal development (and not just a career development) within the fields of creativity and culture. In terms of my own study it helps me to shape my own ideas and to validate the need for further study and enquiry into this area, it also makes me realise that there is a need for such projects and it is the responsibility of those involved in creativity and education to seek to help those students who are passionate and enthusiastic about committing their lives to this area. For example, the report identifies ‘six key challenges’, of which one is ‘building students’ confidence for creative careers; as the report details: ‘When providing an innovative education, HEI’s put creative practice and professional development at the heart of provision and pedagogic approaches’ (p. 4). Another key point is ‘encouraging a research culture and preparing the next generation of teacher-practitioners’, which appears to me as a well-founded principle that legitimizes my own enquiry and point of study.
Furthermore, the report suggests the proposition of “easing the transition in the workplace”. Priorities that the report identifies as “work placements and industry experience through projects”; built in with “understanding professional requirements and client needs”. Indeed, in terms of early career facilitators, ‘formal work placements and industry experience of all kinds, including project work were recognised as important pre-requisites for career entry. In an economically uncertain climate the report suggests that “as the creative sector is fragmented and there are few large employers with the resources to provide work placements and experience, new models for employer engagement and partnerships between HE and the creative sector are required”.
In summary it seems to me that the initial vision and strategic planning for Creative Britain subsequently revisited and reconceptualised in a number of follow up reports such as, ‘Nurturing Creativity in Young People’, can be seen to have developed a policy vision that could be implemented and identified as an organic set of practices and choices. For example, some of the proposals set forward in Creative Britain are: more opportunities for young people to develop creative talents at school and more structured pathways into creative careers (DCMS, 2008 , p. 4); as well as looking to encourage ‘employers and skills providers to set up ground-breaking new innovative places of learning’ (p. 25); or put in the pejorative – the provision of suitably trained ‘human capital’ (p. 26)
Much of this vision is explored and understood as an account of real life experiences in the Creative Career Stories and could be seen in many ways to have a direct link with my own work here in Jersey – even if it is only on a small scale; although it could be argued that the micro-level action research that I am looking to implement could possibly provide a model for similar approaches in similar centres, with similar cohort and profile as my own. For example, the media education networking group http://www.creativefutureseast.org.uk/media-education-networking-group.html based in East Anglia who appear to be organising local career pathways in new and innovative ways.
In summary, as the new century has developed over the last fifteen years we have certainly seen a new framework of debate and discussion emerge, with a set of contesting and unresolved ideas still competing for prominence. As a small illustration, contrast Chris Smith clearly stating that in terms of policy settings in the UK, ‘the creative industries have moved from the fringes to the mainstream’ (p. 1); with, ten years later, the Confederation of British Industry (2010) report, Creating Growth: A Blueprint for the Creative Industries, suggesting that ‘government policy should reflect the range of skills required by creative businesses and ensure these are delivered through secondary and higher education”, rather than delivering skills which present a narrowly defined “supply” model of employability’ (Ball, p. 4)
As Philip Schlesinger notes ‘of especial interest is the rethinking of the original idea of the creative industries. . . the original idea of the creative industries was too broad and needed refinement’ noting that ‘the policy-building process had not been sufficiently self-critical’ (2009, p. 13) How we evaluate the last 5 years and see the future developing, is perhaps the subject of another study. Whereas for now it is worth considering how institutions of education adapt and implement policy visions and strategic planning developed by institutions of government, to prepare ‘human capital’ for institutions of business.
For many media teachers the prompting of Len Masterman ethos from the early 1980’s, may still inform the basis of their teaching: ‘a process of ‘demystification’, with teachers supporting students to develop the capabilities to read media texts in order to ‘liberate’ them from the media’s ‘mystification’. But others, like David Buckingham, have questioned this, suggesting that maybe students aren’t quite so helpless that they need teachers to ‘unmask’ media texts. (A Manifesto for Media Education, 2012)
More recently McDougall and Livingston mapped out the range of Media and Information Literacy Policies in the UK (2014) positioning the UK in terms of media, digital and information literacy as defined by the European Commission (EC), which they see as ‘a pedagogic intention to combine cultural, critical and creative learning’. Overall, they recognised the ‘great success of the UK in providing media education in the mainstream curriculum’ (p. 2) which is, in paradox, ‘continually undermined by a refusal by power-holding groups to legitimize Media Studies as an academic pursuit or as a civic entitlement’ (p. 4) – thus creating the ‘unique aspect of the UK context for media education’.
The report highlights the landscape for media literacy/education as operating within a range of overlapping discursive models, for instance, the notion of a citizenship model broadly working under the discourse of public sphere communication (Habermas, 1993), within which rests the ‘employability’ discourse, asserting that ‘media literacy competence is required for contemporary participation in the modern world’ (McDougall & Livingstone, p. 7). As part of the enquiry, the report looks at the scope and coverage within the curriculum and traces the genealogy of the subject, highlighting the development of more vocational forms of the subject in the 1990’s, which while providing more production-focussed forms of the subject also ‘increased some unhelpful opposition between ‘academic’ and ‘vocational’ learning – which perhaps informs much of my own research and study, as this tension could perhaps become clarified with a greater dialogue between local media providers and provide better structured career pathways, including structured work placements and a stronger dialogue between the classroom and the workroom.
The report draws in recent developments towards the ongoing future development of the subject with reference to the views of the then Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove and the implications for the future of media education contained in both the Next gen report (Livingston & Hope, 2011) and the government’s response (DCMS, 2011), for example raising the profile of ‘videogame design and visual effects skills in children, with an employability discourse rather than a critical literacy context.’ (p. 16).
In a range of other papers there is a general consensus that media education needs to seek to recognise employability as part of the pedagogical framework of delivery. For example, Richmond and Sanders argue that the distinction between ‘academic’ learning and ‘vocational/technical’ skills is not useful for students or employers, and ‘a more nuanced understanding is required’. (2014, p. 2). As they make clear, ‘the need to focus on Knowledge Economy skills has been a key theme within UK educational policy’ (p. 4) and they look at the specific context of Newman University, with ‘an attempt to move beyond the models of graduate skills gaps . . . and associated wider implications of reform in terms of preparing students’ for their career aspirations.’ (p. 2). The aim which echoes with my own intentions is to create opportunities for learners to ‘develop an informed view of ‘employability’ in relation to their own transition into work, study or self-employment, through critical engagement’. (p. 25)
As such, the paper recognises possibilities and potentials as outlined in many of the reports and analysis contained in Creative Career stories, Creative Graduates, Creative Futures, (Ball, Pollard, & Stanley, 2010) and places the present position of media education as a series of overlapping discursive models (Livingstone and McDougall) somewhat removed and developed from the ‘demystification’ process as encapsulated by the work of Masterman. However, maintaining the critical understanding ie ‘demystifying’ the workplace and the potential for career development, still ensures that the original intention of media education is kept in place and informs the process of development in itself. This seems particularly pertinent now, in an age when large scale media corporations are not the only model of employability in the culture and creative industries. But what kind of culture do we now occupy? How can our present situation be related to an ongoing narrative of contemporary cultural and creative employment, and practice?
Hauser (1999) identifies modern creative industry practice as a co-operative model of capitalist production inherited from pre-modern guilds where workers were allocated their role in discrete labour hierarchies, based on traditional, small scale and skilled production. In other words creative labour is geared to the production of original or distinctive commodities that are primarily aesthetic and /or symbolic-expressive, rather than utilitarian and functional (Hirsch, 1972). More recently Nicholas Garnham links the ways in which creative industries have emerged to complement the prevailing ‘information society’ and ‘knowledge economy’, characteristic of Western societies (2005). From my previous section on Business Thinking, there seems plenty of evidence to support a Marxist reading, which could focus on exploitation and property.
Ideologically, this quite ironically presents a positive opportunity for both left and right perspectives. On the left, creative work is highly prized since it appears to offer workers the chance for non-alienating employment conducive to self-expression and ‘personal-growth’, while on the right, conservatives value creative work’s contribution to capital, because it may potentially make workers happier and more compliant. (Banks & Hesmondhalgh, p. 417) In the same article they draw a broad outline that pictures the ideological understandings that have characterised the arguments surrounding modern employment values since the end of the Second World War. For present purposes it is enough to witness the ideological expression inherent in the Creative and Cultural Skills report Britain’s creativity challenge, ‘our sons and daughters will not hew, forge, mine, plough or weld. They will serve, design, advise, create, compose, analyse, judge and write’ (2004, p. 12) Similarly, in the report Your Creative Futures (DCMS) the proposition is to ‘imagine how good it feels to wake up every morning and really look forward to work. Imagine how good it feels to use your creativity, your skills, your talent to produce a film . . . or to edit a magazine . . . ‘ ( (Nixon & B, 2004, p. 129) As Banks and Hesmondhalgh go on to argue, ‘in its utopian presentation creative work is now imagined only as a self-actualising pleasure, rather than a potentially arduous or problematic obligation undertaken through material necessity’ (ibid).
The suggestion of myth-making has also been raised, which at least partially help to understand why so many young people are so easily seduced into the desire to pursue a career in the creative industries. The promise of wealth and fame and the celebration of a range of unlikely popular heroes including various dot.com millionaires, Young British Artists, celebrity chefs, pop stars, media entrepreneurs and the like, ‘have encouraged nascent creatives to imagine themselves as the ‘star’ at the centre of their own unfolding occupational drama, or put another way ‘the individualising discourses of ‘talent’ and ‘celebrity’ and the promise of future fame or consecration, have special purchase in creative work, and are often instrumental in ensuring compliance with the sometimes invidious demands of managers, organisations and the industry’ (Banks & Hesmondhalgh, p. 420).
As can be deduced, this approach overlooks (or ignores) the institutional and collective basis of cultural production and ‘connects to another discourse, one which suggests that creative work is innately talent-driven and meritocratic – that anyone can make it’ (p. 420). However, as Angela McRobbie has suggested the study of creative work should include a wider set of questions including the way in which aspirations to and expectations of autonomy could lead to disappointment and disillusion (2002).
Indeed as Neilson and Rossiter put forward, it is ‘highly unlikely that the creative industries will begin to register in their mapping documents or annual reports the dark side of labour (Neilson & Rossiter, 2005), for this would put the euphoric rhetoric of creative industries policy in jeopardy, and this rhetoric is fundamental to the way in which government frames the sector. Even when some form of failure is recognised, it is not at the fault of the institutional frameworks, or indeed the capitalist system as a whole, but rather it is down to individual error or absence. As the 2008 Creative Britain report sets forward: ‘for every individual who succeeds, there are many who do not. For many, it will be the result of a perfectly reasonable personal decision that the commitment and determination required is not for them.’ (p. 20) – as if ‘determination’ and ‘commitment’ were in themselves enough to secure success.
So is it possible to conclude this literature review and draw all of the three strands together?
According to Banks and Hesmondhalgh, the policy shifts from the emergence of the New Labour into the first decade of the 21st Century have seen a shift in focus from:
‘creative industries per se to a more strategic vision that considers the way in which government, schools, colleges, training providers and other public bodies can help provide the pools of skilled labour required to meet projected future creative economy demands, and that seeks to devise formulas for the provision of integrated R&D and business support for firms by means of enhanced partnerships across governments, public and private bodies and other services’ (p. 426)
This suggests that UK creative industries policy is increasingly becoming linked to educational and employment policy, but under the sign of economics rather than social reform or cultural equality’. So for example, in the case of my own research, the development plan for Jersey is the Education Business Plan – in other words, where business and education are inextricably linked in an unquestionable symbiotic relationship. As such, they conclude, ‘there must be serious concerns about the extent to which this business-driven, economic agenda is compatible with the quality of working life and of human wellbeing in the creative industries. After 10 years, the direction of UK creative industries policy is looking increasingly bleak.’ (p. 428)
To that end one of the key texts that I found in my literature review research is an article by Ashton, Daniel called Media work and the creative industries: Identity work, professionalism and employability, found in Education and Training 53.6 (2011): pages 546-560. In this work Ashton analyses the work carried out at the Artswork Media Centre at Bath Spa University, where a ‘middle ground between university and real life work’ offered ‘possibilities for “real world” or authentic learning and . . . for detailed, qualitative enquiry into students as workers-in-the-making (p. 558). In many ways his paper links with many of the ideas and points that I have been looking at so far in my own research and develops a number of pertinent and salient points, specifically around ‘an examination of situated practices’ (p. 549) .
For example, he highlights the increasing importance of employability to the core operations of UK universities and draws upon the career studies approach, which McCash suggests is “a space in the curriculum for students to consider the ideas and beliefs of self and others concerning career, labour markets and employability” (2008, p. 6). Indeed, Ashton states that ‘anxieties around future professional practice signal the potential value of a Career Studies approach that creates a space for explicitly exploring employment conditions and practices as personally meaningful and proximate concerns. (p. 556), or put more simply there needs to be space in the curriculum for considering ideas and beliefs associated with one’s career.
Ashton develops his analysis as a way to critically reflect on concepts such as “professionalism” and “creativity” – which Ball (2010, p. 70) conceives as an ‘ideology’ – to explore potential future employment conditions and practices in the media and creative industries. He also looks at the meaning-making processes and lived experiences of students, looking at the ‘creative talent / human capital argument’, which could be understood as where human capital – skills and attributes – are on offer for sale, specific to a certain sector of employment; for example: ‘graduates who have lower final grades, and who come from “perceived” less prestigious HEIs, experience low salaries when entering the labour market’ (Communian, Faggian, & Jewell, 2011, p. 304). As such, workforce development acts as a central and recurrent theme, across a considerable range of creative industries policy visions and strategies, which have been hopefully highlighted in this paper.
Overall, Ashton suggests that there is no clear consensus in the debates and policy frameworks that define and locate the creative industries but nevertheless develops a range of critical perspectives and insights from exploring employability as a learning process integral to the higher education learning framework. As Ashton writes: ‘employability not a just as skills, but as dispositions and attitudes’ (p. 553). I was also interested in the way in which Ashton drew on the personal impact of those individuals who were making decisions mindful of the impact of recession on their lives and career plans, and how they were coping, where economic uncertainty and future career plans were clearly having an effect, in particular around uncertain incomes based around creative ventures, which although may lead to more adaptable and inventive ways of exploring new markets and clients, it also entailed a high risk strategy in terms of a stable and reliable future career path. As Ashton puts forward ‘issues of quality of life, exclusionary practices, and working conditions and pay are hugely significant to any consideration of employability’ (p. 557)
In this sense Ashton presents a paper that looks at ‘the meaning that students give to their activities and the understandings of employability that are articulated’ (p. 549) As Banks and Deuze have suggested, “when considering questions of cultural work we need to pay more attention to the meanings that cultural workers give to these activities themselves” (2009, p. 426). In summary, Ashton’s paper seeks ‘to move the analysis of employability from general statements of skills and contributions, to an examination of situated practices and understandings by focusing on students as potential future creative workers’. In conclusion, Ashton hopes that his paper will prompt further conversations on the productive and progressive possibilities of examining “employability” (p. 558). As a last word, I hope that in a small way my own study helps to examine that possibility as well.
During this first year of research I have already identified the Journal of Applied Journalism & Media Studies as a useful source of inspiration and ideas, particularly in terms of developing and locating my own ideas and practice. In the key note article by Leon Barkho and Saleh Ibrahim: ‘Towards paxis-based media research’, “it seeks to carve a conceptual and methodological niche for . . . media research and how the gap between media theory and media practice is bridged.” Indeed, the authors go on to assert that:
Media research is in need of a turn that shifts focus to the needs of media practitioners, employing theory in the service of practice by conducting research with a critical angle not only to explain the social reality of the media but provide alternatives to help them pursue ‘rational’ policies. (Saleh & Barkho, 2013, p. 5)
As such, I think this would be a good publication site for my own research. However, much of the work in this journal seems to be currently situated in reference to large scale commercial institutional contexts, as such some of the other periodicals that I have used in this piece of work may prove to be more suitable for example: British Journal of Sociology for Education, British Journal of Educational Studies, Education and Training as well as the Journal for Media, Communication and Cultural Studies and of course the Media Educational Research Journal (MERJ) which is so clearly linked to this Doctor of Education course.
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