The Creative Skillset ‘Tick’

Extending the impact and value of vocational education in the creative industries

Creative Skillset Tick promo. Directed and edited by Derek Richards. Duration 2mins 40secs

“Derek added enormous value to the way that Ravensbourne used their Tick accredited status and was always proactive in his approach. His knowledge of the best methods of engaging industry to maximise work opportunities for our students and graduates showed that he has a great understanding of the way that the creative industries interact with higher education institutions.”
– Jo Eaton, Industry Liaison, Ravensbourne

Bearing the title Quality Relationship Manager, this 18month contract saw me charged with enhancing the relationship between Creative Skillset and the creative industries courses it accredits with the “Tick” mark. Supported by a team of accreditation advisers primarily (but not exclusively) responsible for delivery and monitoring of accreditation, my goal was to add value to the “Tick” product through building strong relationships between accredited higher education institutions and through extending their relationships with industry.

The Tick is awarded to courses that can prove they connect with industry and teach professional skills that ensure its graduates are work-ready. Efficacy is reliant on industry ownership of the Tick. This begins with creative industry involvement in developing accreditation criteria and, prior to my engagement, largely ended with the role industry representatives play in formerly assessing courses’ suitability to be “Ticked”.

Industry Partnerships and Employability Programmes

“Creative Skillset also acts as a middle person between education and industry which is crucial as not all companies have a member of staff fostering links with HE.” [1]

“Because of the legacy of the Tick, these students have a strong understanding of what our business is about and many of them will have undertaken internships, master classes or tutorials with our own employees.” [2]

Extending the relationship with industry, I developed partnerships with professional organisations to deliver programmes that enhanced vocational preparation of students and saw employers working continuously with courses to increase employability of students and graduates.

An example of this is a mentoring programme for second year Visual Effects (VFX) and Animation students delivered by industry trainers Escape Studios. The programme, now in its second year, begins with VFX artists and supervisors such as Sean Danischevsky (2D supervisor on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and lead compositor on Batman Begins) delivering masterclasses and one-to-one mentoring sessions to groups of students at their institutions. The students then take on a project and, with free access to Escape’s Virtual Leaning Environment (VLE), upload annotated iterations of their work for regular review by the jobbing professional mentors. The VLE allows mentors to make audio and screen recordings of their commentary on the work.

A similar programme for games students was developed with leading video games recruitment agency Aardvark Swift working with employers from small and large studios. National Portfolio Day is an event for the network of fashion courses where head designers from the likes of Hobbs, M&S and John Lewis provide portfolio advice to final year students.

Industry Engagement, Showcasing and Gateway Events

“The Tick Talent Showcase was beneficial to both staff and graduates to both network and showcase their work.” [1]

Leading cross-departmental teams (marcomms, industry partnership managers and the Tick/accreditation team), I designed and delivered two end of academic year national events, one for the Animation, VFX and Games sectors and another for Film and TV. The Tick Talent Showcase for animation, vfx and games is a ‘talent aggregator’ that presents the best graduates from Tick accredited courses to industry recruiters in one central London location. The event also includes talks and master classes for graduates and networking opportunities for academic staff and employers.

“Prior to accreditation we had not been aware of networking opportunities but the Film and TV Launchpad in July 2015 was an exciting and tangible benefit…” [1]

In a field where employment is predominantly freelance, the Film & TV Launchpad took on a different form with a programmme of roundtable consultation sessions and industry panels covering three themes: “get it made”, “get it seen” and “get paid” followed by a cinema screening of student work and networking drinks. The event included a film awards competition with prizes donated by industry and a pitching competition where event production partners, Sheffield DocFest, delivered a day of preparatory training to shortlisted competitors prior to the event.

Film & TV Launch Pad 2015

Bursaries and Funding

“Through accreditation, the university is kept informed of new funding opportunities and then being assisted through the application process by Creative Skillset.” [1]

The £850,000 budget was used to develop programmes, deliver events and to fund students on Tick accredited courses to attend industry events, as well as to address critical issues affecting the talent pipeline. One such issue was the discrepancy whereby students on courses other than those delivered by the national screen academies do not receive budgets to deliver their graduation film projects. The production values of what would be their industry calling card is therefore dependant on their personal or family economic circumstances. I used funds from a pot secured from the BFI Skills Fund to launch a bursary scheme to provide production funding to students from low income families. All but one of the awards won at the Film and TV Launchpad were won by students in receipt of the bursary.

Supporting Quality Provision

“Being part of a network of Ticked courses has benefited us in matching learning objectives to course content which has been shared via the network.” [1]

My budget also allowed me to commission the provision of CPD training for course tutors helping them to stay abreast of new and emergent industry practice.

A series of tutor networking events were held for each of the animation, vfx, film & TV, games and fashion subject areas. At the first of each event I devised and facilitated workshop activity that allowed the tutors to set their own agenda and identify themes they wanted to explore together as a professional network. These included the development of a cross-institution platform for script development in film and TV and for interdisciplinary collaboration.


In March 2015 Creative Skillset launched Hiive, an online networking platform for the creative industries. I commissioned functionality to ‘badge’ the profiles of Tick accredited course students and graduates and allow employers to filter talent searches for them. Following demand articulated by students at physical events, it was clear that the opportunity this functionality presented for students and graduates to network would be a welcome one. The facility will also streamline Creative Skillset communication with the student community removing the necessity to burden academic staff with the additional administrative task of co-ordinating participation in Creative Skillset initiatives.

Hands-on Production

Bespoke communications materials were required to support the activity, integrating online content with events. Creative direction included commissioning a spoken word artist to turn case studies into short stories and perform them at a stand-out event for the Digital Shoreditch Festival. I also engaged my own team of filmmakers and worked hands on to produce video content such as the piece above, created as part of the campaign run in response to institutions’ expressed need for support in marketing accredited courses to prospective students.

Relationship Management & Product Development

“Our relationship with Creative Skillset is greatly valued and we know there will be the opportunity to further extend it in the future.” [1]

The programme of work began with a consultation exercise which surfaced some tensions between Creative Skillset and degree course leaders who questioned value for money. The ultimate objective was to evolve Creative Skillset’s Tick accreditation scheme beyond being an industry recognised kite mark into an active and thriving relationship between industry and higher education. The end of the contract saw a significant shift in attitudes which HE partners attributed to the new programme of work. This was accompanied by a 20% growth in sales, i.e. new applications for accreditation.

“Derek, Thanks for your help making this Accreditation a thing! And more than just a badge. The students awareness of Creative Skillset is growing all the time. That’s all thanks to you.” – Daniel Hopkins, Senior Lecturer & Course Leader, School of Film, Sound and Vision, Staffordshire University

[1] Attributed testimonials from course tutors extracted from the evaluation of the programme.

[2] A blog post by Amy Smith, Head of Recruitment at Framestore, makers of Gravity and Avengers: Age of Ultron.

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