The cost of creativity: how else can we unlock creative potential?

Short Read

In our last article, we stressed how essential it is for the creative industry to start taking a serious look at how traditional pathways to creative careers can be challenged – and what solutions we (and by we, I mean the government, the education sector and the industry) could be offering.



Are we all failing to recognise the value that apprenticeships can offer in nurturing talent and addressing skills gaps within the industry? Or is it that it’s too much ‘work’ to provide such a structured format that will result in a qualification in an industry where structure isn’t a given?





One of the main challenges facing the uptake of design and creative apprenticeships in the UK is the perception gap. Unlike more traditional apprenticeships in fields like construction or engineering, the fast-paced nature of creative work presents logistical challenges for an apprenticeship programme. Design and creative projects often operate on strict deadlines. Budgets can be tight, so agencies look to reduce the amount of time or resources on particular projects. Internships aren’t offered on an expense-only basis anymore (and neither should they be), but the cost of employing an apprentice could also be a factor, particularly for smaller agencies. Then there is also the expectation of those entering the industry to have a base-level set of skills (rightly or wrongly) so they can hit the ground running.


Finding the right balance between structured learning and real-world experience is a daunting task. So, whose responsibility should it be to ensure diverse, new talent is given a fair shot, no matter what path they choose they chose to go down in the industry?





Offering structured training, mentorship and hands-on experience provides a unique opportunity for people to develop the practical skills and industry knowledge needed to thrive in the world of design and creativity. This ‘hands-on experience’ approach isn’t new – in the early 1960s, only 4% of school leavers went to university, rising to around 14% by the end of the 1970s. Neither of my parents went to university – granted neither of them ended up in particular creative careers (although my Mum definitely has creative ‘bones’ in her) – but their lack of experience didn’t really seem to matter. Nowadays it’s almost like you have to ‘prove’ that you can do a job before you’re even considered for a role.


Apprenticeships will undoubtedly offer a more inclusive and accessible pathway into the industry, allowing individuals from diverse backgrounds to earn a living whilst learning valuable skills (both practical and ‘life’ skills), making creativity more accessible to all. Surely that’s a good thing?


We know it can be done because there are already some great initiatives out there that are trying to challenge the ‘normal’ route into the industry. I mentioned Brixton Finishing School in our last article, but D&AD Shift and universities such as Ravensbourne are also doing their bit to champion creative potential for students who can’t get into the industry through the traditional route.


Ambassadors from all three of these initiatives come together for an episode of Creative Review’s Creativity Sucks podcast – it makes for a really interesting listen, with lots of insightful points (all articulated much more eloquently than me).


Ultimately we need more partnerships and more collaboration between the industry and education to help bridge the gap between theory and practice. How we do it, that’s another story. But I’m hopeful.




The Cost of Creativity is a series of articles looking at what challenges increased education fees bring to creativity and what’s at stake if we do nothing about it.