James Griffin is president and co-founder of Vancouver Film School.
British Columbia's creative economy is burgeoning. The province's arts, digital and entertainment industries are worth $4-billion in annual gross domestic product and supply more than 85,000 jobs. There are 900 digital media companies employing 14,000 people; 65 game development studios employing 5,000; and a film and television sector with a work force of 49,000.
Vancouver alone will have more than 15,500 tech job openings between now and 2019. Look around the city and you already see the effects: a prosperous hub of startups, world-leading ideas and injections of new talent.
With such opportunity comes challenges. The skills championed 20, 10 and even five years ago will not consolidate the future – for the industry or for young graduates looking to enter it.
This is well known in government. Creative BC, the body vested with co-ordinating and promoting the province's creative economies, regularly consults with industry and educators about the anticipated short- and long-term skills needed to sustain and grow Vancouver's competitive position.
There is also growing feeling among creatives themselves that B.C.'s talent pool has reached a critical mass. The next evolution of our industry must be from a resource pool of talent to a centre with more ownership and authorship. Emerging entrepreneurs, young creatives and new graduates need the ability to launch their own ventures rather than simply contributing to those of large, often foreign-owned companies.
In this environment, those wishing to enter the market cannot expect to do it with expertise only in visual effects or game design, for example. Graduates need to know how to launch and manage a startup business; how to climb the ladder in a company by offering key business acumen; how to protect and grow their intellectual property; and how to understand and adapt to changing business and distribution models.
This means educators must also change the prism though which they see the world.
Valve Corp., an innovative games company, uses a "T" hiring model that assesses the specific specialization of an applicant alongside their degree of general knowledge. They never hire only an expert or only a generalist – everybody has to be both. This makes perfect sense when you are dependent on building a highly collaborative environment to drive the economics of your business. Whether looking at it from the perspective of employer or employee, what's required in our creative economy is this new spectrum of industry skill and business knowledge.
This change is certainly being felt by pre- and postsecondary educators. With the endorsement of the B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education, Vancouver Film School recently launched its "VFS Pathway" in partnership with the B.C. Institute of Technology (BCIT), enabling students to obtain a highly competitive set of qualifications that unify creative and business. Students who fully complete the program will have a creative specialty and adaptive business proficiency.
The collaboration couldn't have taken place 10 years ago. The mould was broken when BCIT, the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and the Emily Carr University of Art and Design united to set up a masters in digital media program in 2007. My school's partnership is just another example of using complementary resources to address economic needs and prospects in a vibrant and poised industry sector. This is certainly part of the equation for ensuring long-term growth in the fast-moving world of entertainment content.
We stand in good company with many of the city's most innovative and creative agencies and institutions.
Simon Fraser University, Ryerson University and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology announced earlier this year the creation of a new, federally funded incubator program (Zones of Incubation and Innovation) that helps Canadian digital technology and gaming companies enter the international marketplace. The initiative expects to help more than 375 companies within five years.
In Vancouver, the city's Launch Academy provides a mentorship program, physical hub and network association for young tech entrepreneurs. In two years, it's helped more than 200 startups get off the ground, raising more than $28-million in investment and creating 400 jobs.
And, earlier this year, Creative BC announced the Slate Development Fund, providing B.C.-based film or television entertainment companies with up to $25,000 to support the development of film, television or web series projects.
As British Columbia seizes opportunities available through international investment and growing talent pools, so must our workers – and the institutions that support them. A growing creative economy demands a similar evolution in how we train, support and inspire them.