Succeed in screen with a ScreenSkills Select course

Northern Film School

A new stamp of approval has been launched to identify which college and university courses can best prepare young people to work behind the camera in film and television.

ScreenSkills Select asks professionals from the film, TV, animation, VFX (visual effects) and animation industries to distinguish the courses that can provide a more direct pathway to employment in a wide range of jobs. 

The service has been designed to signpost teenagers – and their parents, guardians, teachers and careers advisers – to quality university and college courses that are relevant to employers. It is supported by industry professionals to ensure the courses are responding to changes within the sector.

The value to the students is that they are much more industry-ready when they graduate and will have had work experience during their course. For industry it means that there are much more employable graduates in the employment pool.

Tim Overson, art director (Doctor Who, Sanditon) and ScreenSkills Select industry evaluator

ScreenSkills Select has been developed with the support of the BFI, awarding National Lottery funds as part of its Future Film Skills strategy. It is designed to:

  • ensure students who want to work in the screen industries can identify those courses that give them the best possible start
  • bring the relevant college and university courses closer to the screen industries, giving educators additional industry insight and connections, and a distinct value in a crowded marketplace
  • help the screen industries identify work-ready students who can fulfill their needs

The context for reform is:

  • a booming UK production sector with skills shortages and gaps
  • widescale policy reform in vocational learning
  • increasing demand from students for value for money from their education investment

In a crowded field of education opportunities, and given the costs, it’s important that prospective students can understand which course provides the best employment opportunities after course completion.

Ben Cowell-Thomas, VFX supervisor (Men in Black: International, Avengers: Endgame) and ScreenSkills Select industry evaluator

ScreenSkills Select replaces the previous accreditation service Tick created by ScreenSkills (then Creative Skillset) in 2005 after consultation with the screen industries and education sector. It provides a more collaborative approach to course assessment and a sharper industry focus to the process.

Crucially, it offers colleges and universities ongoing support from leading industry practitioners and a dedicated liaison officer to improve the ability of their courses to adapt and respond to the latest developments in the industry, and to meet specific skills shortages.

Additional benefits include practical measures, such as employability training events offering guidance to students to prepare them both for job applications and for their first day in production, and an annual conference to provide course leaders and tutors with an up-to-date understanding of industry and workforce trends and issues.

Seetha Kumar, ScreenSkills Chief Executive, said: “We believe that identifying those courses most relevant to a career in the UK’s screen industries benefits students who currently emerge from education with significant debt; universities, colleges and training providers who need to demonstrate their value in a crowded marketplace; and an industry facing increasing competition from rivals for the best talent.

“We absolutely recognise the importance of academic courses that examine screen as an art form or analyse its social impact. However, this is about making sure that young people who are really interested in working in film and television production can find the best practical pathway to achieving their goal.”

Gareth Ellis-Unwin, ScreenSkills’ Head of Film and Animation and the Academy Award-winning producer of The King’s Speech, said: “What UK screen needs is young people with the passion, knowledge and business skills to hit the ground running in our incredibly busy and successful industry. ScreenSkills Select will help universities and colleges deliver that.”

Leigh Adams, Director of Education and Skills for the BFI which has supported the development of ScreenSkills Select, said: ”We welcome the launch of ScreenSkills Select as yet another way for more young people across the UK to find a viable entry point into the industry. The continued production boom in the UK offers the opportunity for thousands of new job roles behind the camera. To capitalise on this, ScreenSkills Select will signpost to further and higher education courses which can offer effective pathways into employment, narrowing the gap between education courses and relevant employability skills.” 

Industry professionals who have signed up to evaluate ScreenSkills Select include Jacqui Doyle, Head of Production at ITV, Sam Beattie, principal character artist at the games developers Rebellion, Will Becher, animator at Aardman Productions whose credits include Early Man and Shaun the Sheep, Amanda McArthur, production designer on How to Build a Girl and St Trinian’s 2, and Ben Cowell Thomas, VFX supervisor at DNEG whose credits include Men in Black: International and Avengers: Endgame.

A few screen industries statistics

The most recent Government figures available (2016) show the total turnover of the UK’s screen industries stands at £37.5 billion and employment has risen at more than double the rate of the economy as a whole in recent years (between 2013 and 2017, general employment rose 7%; employment in the screen industries rose 16%).

Research by ScreenSkills Skills Forecasting Service published in 2019 shows there are jobs available in the screen industries; one third of respondents to the ScreenSkills Employer Survey reported recruitment difficulties with nearly half (47%) suggesting these were a serious or very serious problem that always or very often limits activities.

How ScreenSkills Select works

The ScreenSkills Select process involves a two-stage process. Applications from colleges and universities are assessed by quality and industry evaluators alongside a confidential questionnaire of students on the applicant course. Successful courses move on to stage two when course leaders make presentations to a panel of senior industry representatives. Endorsed courses are accredited for four years but are required to submit an annual monitoring report on any major staffing, resource or curriculum changes – and are supported by further, annual reviews with an industry evaluator. Unsuccessful courses are given feedback, advice and support to improve their quality to the appropriate standard.

What industry evaluators say about the new ScreenSkills Select

Tim Overson, art director, whose credits include Doctor Who and Sanditon, says; “The value to the students is that they are much more industry-ready when they graduate and will have had work experience during their course. For industry it means that there are much more employable graduates in the employment pool.”

Amanda McArthur, production designer whose credits include St Trinian’s and How to Build a Girl, says: “The industry is going through a period of renaissance with a huge increase in large-scale television production being made here in Britain. Studios are full and film crews in the industry are really busy.  It’s becoming increasingly hard to get good crew. We need more crew in all areas of film production to meet the demand.  But we want these people to have the right skill base and to be trained properly so they can be effective team members.”

Jacqui Doyle, Head of Production and Talent, ITV Studios, says: “I am passionate about skills development of the future industry workforce – the industry is growing and is vital that we ensure training and skills development is relevant both to industry and to students.”

Ben Cowell-Thomas, VFX supervisor at DNEG whose credits include Men in Black: International and Avengers: Endgame, says: “In a crowded field of education opportunities, and given the costs, it’s important that prospective students can understand which course provides the best employment opportunities after course completion.”


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