Tackling career mobility in the creative industries

The UK’s Creative Industries are now worth £84.1 billion per year. That’s bigger than the automotive, life sciences, oil and gas and aerospace sectors combined. Yet, as the creative sector continues to outperform the rest of the UK economy, the number of students taking up creative education is the lowest it’s been for a decade – 19,000 fewer pupils took arts subjects at key stage four last year compared to 2014. The V&A has launched a scheme to ‘prevent design becoming endangered’, while countless aspiring young creatives struggle to break into the industry. The current ways are not working, that much is clear. So this year, ustwo decided to level-up our efforts and tackle the issue head-on.

In digital and creative industries, traditional paths such as arts degrees, unpaid internships or low salary entry level roles are still pervasive, and often seen as a right of passage. According to a survey of 80 current students, the large majority – 77.5% – didn’t even consider alternatives to university. We know that the gulf between education and industry experience can be vast. The digital industry moves very quickly, meaning education and training materials find it hard to keep up. The outcome of this is a skills gap – graduates who aren’t equipped for the realities of working life.

These traditional channels can also be exclusionary – too often how much money you have, or who you know, impact the opportunities young people have in the creative industries. Agencies are suffering from this lack of diversity within their workforce and acknowledge the value that fresh perspective brings. The gap is real and it’s in our interest to help close it.

We’re happy to announce our patronage of Lecture In Progress, who share advice, insight and inspiration for the next generation of creatives. This January, we also pledged support to OH, a platform that connects talent with industry through alternative education and kicked off our engagement with Flipside, an agency-led alternative to apprenticeships.


This week, we’re excited to announce Lecture in Progress as the latest addition to our Foundation – ustwo’s version of philanthropy, through the form of patronage, sponsorship and our time.

ustwo’s backing will help Lecture in Progress continue their mission to demystify the inner-workings of the creative world, allowing young people to make better career decisions by providing practical advice and real-life perspectives. Lecture In Progress also produce high-quality research and reporting (their recent study helped inform this post), allowing the industry to keep in touch with the next generation of creatives. ustwo is the first agency to become a Brand Patron – something that Will Hudson, Lecture in Progress Founder, welcomes: “We have been big fans of ustwo for their fearless, innovative approach to design products, services and their own initiatives and ventures. All this makes them the perfect people to have onboard as out latest brand patron.”


OH, a platform based in Liverpool that connects creative talent with industry through alternative education, was the first recipient of support from our Foundation earlier this year. Their industry-led training is also inclusive to those who may not be able to afford skyrocketing prices of traditional degrees (currently pegged at £9,250 per year), or for whom alternative education is more attractive. Our backing will help deliver OH’s training programme, Catalyst, to another cohort of young people in 2018.

“The framework of Catalyst has proved to be something that not only helps navigate young people in what they want to do as a career, and has got them into jobs by the end of it, but it unlocks them as people and as a community” explains Robyn Dooley, OH founder. “We’re excited to see what this type of opportunity can do for people, even more so to have a company like ustwo backing us and encouraging the movement of alternative education.”

OH’s location in the North is also a point of relevance- a recent study revealed that the positive economic and cultural impact brought about by creative industries is highly concentrated in England rather than the UK as a whole, with the majority, 32% of total GVA (Gross Value Added) in the sector, being produced in London alone. Opportunities like those provided by OH mean we can begin to address this imbalance, distributing the benefits of creative industry more evenly across the population.


This month, we’ve also joined our partner agencies Made x Many, Sennep and beyond in welcoming the first cohort to Flipside, an agency-led digital training programme run in collaboration with the London Legacy Development Corporation and A New Direction. It’s focused on giving fast-tracked, work-based, real-world learning to young, talented local people from diverse backgrounds.

We’ve been involved in the scheme from its earliest stages, applying our service design methodology to create a program that gives young people without access to design school, the quickest point of entry into our industry. Jess, who has been leading ustwo’s involvement in the scheme describes it like this: “This is real learning on the job. A 12-week training programme plus 6 months work experience, built around real clients briefs. We want young people to come and work with us, experience what it feels like, and grow together from there.”


It will take a sustained, collaborative effort to address the lack of diversity in the creative industries and shortcomings of traditional educational pathways. Our efforts are only a small part of that but we intend to keep working towards correcting these imbalances, one step at a time. Here are a few things we’re committing to focus on in the coming months:

  • Uptree, a professional network for young people who we invested in last year, will this month team up with ustwo Adventure to deliver work experience and training to a small cohort of school-age students.
  • Founder and CEO of ustwo Adventure, Mills, is undergoing training with the Creative Mentor Network to better address the problems young people face when trying to break into the industry.
  • Our Foundation will continue to fund impactful initiatives in the creative education space.
  • ustwo Studios have confirmed a number of new spaces for design interns will become available later this year – you can find the rolling application here.

We’re starting as we mean to go on, but there’s still a long way to go.