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Policymaking and the creative services industry - what’s next for Australia?

· Allana Ferguson,Creative Services,Industry,Analysis

The workforce in the creative services industry (think advertising, architecture, design and creative digital content) is transforming. While many sectors will be shedding jobs from automation in the future, creative skills are among the mostly likely to grow with the industry currently expanding almost 3 times faster than the overall workforce. That’s not to say that performing artists, musicians and visual artists are earning above the Australian mean income (because they aren’t), but rather that the digital creative economy is continuing to thrive despite disruption; in fact creative services workers who have software and digital content skills are earning 30% higher than the average national income. Are creative industries the answer to robot-proofing jobs of the future? And what does this mean for policymakers?

Universities like QUT have been tackling this subject since 2001 when it established the world’s first Creative Industries Faculty in order to combine education, research and development, creative business enterprise development and performance venue. Economist strategist have predicted that in the ‘rise of the machines’ era, a degree in the creative industry is an intelligent choice. This came to fruition in the recent Victorian Budget which revealed that one of Victoria’s fastest growing sectors under the Labor government is creative industries employment.

From a more general business perspective, in 2016 Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel AO released the Skills and Capabilities for Australian enterprise innovation report that outlined how creative skills can make a business (including those outside of the creative industry) innovative and productive. The report argued that while technical and scientific capabilities are imperative, business also needs people who understand culture, systems and ideas that society accepts while being able to come up with new ideas not yet considered. But in order to grow an innovative, flexible and creative workforce, Dr Finkel proposed that we need to entwine the technical and non-technical rather than develop one or the other. This was not to devalue concepts like STEM but highlight the importance of having a sustainable creative industry through non-technical skill development for the broader Australian economy.

Economic rationales for public policy intervention in the arts historically focus on either market failure or systems failure. The Oxford Handbook of Creative Industries argues that this has shifted over the past 30 years in the context of industrial policies for traditional goals such as job growth or exports, and the need for investment in knowledge exchange and intangibles, and domino effects in other sectors. But this shift still reinforces the importance of implementing policy focused on sustaining our growing creative industry also reflected in Dr Finkel’s reports. His research outlines the creative skills businesses need for innovation through training and skills development (and why universities need to work toward creating a sophisticated and technically advanced creative education space in Australia).

Dr Finkel’s main research results found that

  1. Innovation requires a diverse mix of skills and capabilities (the current focus on science and technology skills does not sufficiently address Australia’s shortcomings in innovation)
  2. Australian can become a more efficient innovator (Australia generally has the relevant skills and lacks the capacity to manage and use these skills and other inputs for innovation)
  3. Australia’s innovative enterprises thoroughly mix technical and non-technical skills for innovation (successful innovation relies on Australian enterprises, education practice and government policy)
  4. Innovation requires skills mixing in individuals (highly innovative organisations recognise that attitudes, cultural fit, ‘cleverness’ or ‘emotional intelligence’ are as important, if not more than technical skill requirements)
  5. Innovation requires skills mixing across teams and across organisations (leading organisations hire staff from outside their own sector)
  6. Meeting innovation challenges overtime (government policy can support dynamism and flow within the innovation system by facilitating collaboration and cooperation)

We do not have to dive too deep to find the plethora of arguments, intrinsic and economic, for valuing our creative industries sector. According to the report, we have entered the third generation of innovation thinking and policy: a more holistic picture of how businesses can be innovative driven by a series of ideas in which economics, organisations, work and skills can interrelate. This means that for policymakers, education and training focused on fostering creativity and developing non-technical skills can generate a thriving creative sector while in turn providing a platform for businesses to increase their innovation. Are creative industries the key to robot-proofing the future?

Allana Ferguson is a Risk Analyst at FPL Advisory.

FPL Advisory is a team of specialists resolving risks and creating opportunities with respect to government. We work with public sector and corporate clients to execute strategies for owning and managing change.