A unique partnership between six colleges in Scotland and the creative media trade is aiming to bridge the gap between FE and industry.
Future Skills for Creative Industries is a partnership between Dundee, Aberdeen, Adam Smith, Cardonald, Perth and Reid Kerr colleges and Skillset (the sector skills council for the audiovisual industries), the Scottish Qualifi-cations Authority, Scottish Screen and representatives from the Scottish Media Industries Skills Panel, which includes BBC Scot-land, SMG, Channel 4 and independent production companies.
The purpose is to ensure graduates entering the creative audio-visual and media sector are equipped with the right range of skills and understanding to fulfil changing demand. The creative industries include television, radio, animation, games, interactive media, visual communication, film, video, photography, digital audio and cinema distribution and exhibition.
Dundee, the lead partner, is managing the project.
Future Skills for Creative Industries (FSCI), which is set to be officially launched around Easter with the backing of the First Minister, seeks to improve the flow of job-ready entrants to the industry and create links between the colleges and employers. It has been awarded pound;600,000 from the Scottish Funding Council's strategic change fund for an initial period of three years. The colleges and partners have topped that up with pound;400,000, bringing the overall project cost to pound;1 million.
"The idea is to have a co-ordinated and consistent approach," explains Helliate Rushwaya, the FSCI project manager. "This project is in response to industry requirements, to make sure students are graduating with the right skills and the lecturers are up to speed.
"The creative industries is a rapidly growing sector, and the various strands are converging. People used to work in TV, film or radio. Now you've got to be able to transfer your skills. We are hoping to supply the industry with talent that understands this."
The money has been allocated to deliver four main objectives: industry placements for students; the development of online units; continuing professional development of staff; and developing regional support hubs to train and upskill those employed in the industry. FSCI hopes to respond to growing network opportunities, content delivery systems and changing markets.
An example of CPD within the partnership is the use of training swaps between colleges and local production companies. Courses are delivered to local firms in exchange for master classes provided to staff and students.
In its first year, FSCI seeks to place 50 students in radio and 100 in other creative industries. In the second year, the target is 75 and 120, and in the final year, it hopes to secure 100 placements in radio and 180 in the other areas.
The SQA's Higher National Diploma in television production has introduced placements as mandatory in response to a Skillset recommendation. The FSCI hopes to develop that. One intention of the new partnership is to enhance the SQA's understanding of industry needs in its development of HND units and modules.
Grant Ritchie, the assistant principal of Dundee College and a member of the Scottish Media Industries Skills panel, came up with the idea and wrote the proposal. "It's about creating a curriculum that accurately meets industry needs; making courses as relevant as we can so that students are industry-ready," he said.
"The industry needs people coming in who can take advantage of multi-channel television, interactive media and increasing networking opportunities. Scotland does not have the capacity to take full advantage of these opportunities at present."
Ms Rushwaya has been in her post since September. When the three years are up, she hopes FSCI will have created such demand for its students that it will be able to secure further funding and expand to include other colleges.
"Ofcom and the BBC are looking to outsource 17 per cent of network production to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, so there will be a significant expansion in production jobs in Scotland," she says. "This is about establishing a strong relationship between industry and FE colleges so there is more effective interaction.
"FSCI will help improve the employability of students and significantly increase collaboration between colleges, as well as between colleges and the industry.
"Our partnership is unique in the UK," adds Ms Rushwaya. "This could be a good model of how FE can work better with industry."