I attended a meeting in London yesterday presenting the findings of a large piece of research relating to their video games (VG) and visual effects (VFX) sectors. The meeting was hosted by NESTA.
The findings will be presented to the government in the New Year. This was an invitation-only, early look at what will be in the report. SQA was the only UK awarding body invited, perhaps reflecting our position in this sector.
Some fascinating information was presented. Young people at school were unaware of the UK's significance in the computer games/visual effects sectors. Only 3% of pupils knew Grand Theft Auto was made in the UK. Nineteen percent of (UK) teachers knew this, although this doubled (almost 38%) of Scottish teachers. The authors said that this was a recurring theme - that Scotland was consistently more aware of, and more involved in, these sectors, the Scottish results being consistently higher than the UK average. There was poor awareness of the importance of Maths and Physics in the production of video games and visual effects (none realised that physics is involved in computer games), most pupils and teachers reporting that ICT (as distinct from Computer Science) was the most importance subject to prepare them for careers in these fields. The importance of highly developed programming skills was also not understood. Fewer than one in five (19%) ICT teachers had a degree in Computer Science; not many more (22%) were able to go beyond writing basic computer programs. The actions required included "bringing programming back into the classroom", and making Maths and Physics more attractive to school pupils, perhaps by introducing computer games and visual effects into these subject areas.
The researchers reported that around 1500 students graduated with a VG/VFX-related degree in 2009 and around 10% of these graduates found employment in this sector within 6 months of graduating. The success rate for industry-linked courses was higher (20%) and the overall employment rate (50%) was higher still. It was pointed out that 2009 was a very bad year for graduate employment in any sector. Interestingly, less than one in four VG/VFX degree courses included Maths as a mandatory part of the programme. This figure was lower in FE programmes, with 16% including any Maths.
Employers reported difficulty in filling VG/VFX positions (at all levels) with appropriate people. They complained about "inadequate programming skills" and poor team working and project management skills. The authors recommended a more systematic engagement between industry, HE and FE.
It was pointed out that the video game/visual effects sectors are presently worth $50 billion today and this will increase to $90 billion by 2015, making it one of the largest commercial sectors in the world.
The Livingstone-Hope Independent Review for Video Games and Visual Effects Sector will be published in early 2011.