Thursday, April 20, 2006

Talkback: Having the creative right stuff is not a matter of degree

Talkback: Having the creative right stuff is not a matter of degree

By Mark Champion

Would Peter Jackson be a better film-maker if he had a tertiary qualification in film studies from an international university?

Potentially, but the hard years spent honing his craft while balancing a day job toughened him up for high-level film negotiations while jobs as a photo-engraver and film editor helped pay the bills and consolidate vital skills.

Like many of our most creative people, Jackson's journey to success has taken him down an interesting and varied path, and he has managed to achieve success on a global scale without having to rely solely on a vocational degree.

While few would argue against the value of a tertiary qualification, it's an indisputable fact that creative success comes from a wide range of experiences and backgrounds. As advertising guru David Ogilvy once remarked: "Talent, I believe, is most likely to be found among non-conformists, dissenters and rebels."

Unfortunately, these arguments are lost on our short-sighted Government which has its head in the sand when it comes to the skills shortage in one of our most creative industries.

The communications, advertising and marketing industry is facing a serious skills shortage that cannot be filled by local talent alone.

The Communications Agencies Association New Zealand (CAANZ) and recruitment specialists Marsden Inch have made two detailed submissions to the Department of Labour to have the industry added to the skills shortage registry. Addition to this list would make it easier for agencies to recruit the global talent needed to fill our local skills gaps.

We've provided detailed job descriptions, research and other material that offer clear evidence of the shortages in media planning and buying, account management and direction, strategy and copy writing.

But we've reached an impasse with the department. Government policy is being doggedly interpreted to mean that any potential migrant without a tertiary qualification cannot claim to have the creative prowess to make it in New Zealand - despite evidence of relevant experience and success in their home country.

As the professional body for the communications industry, our first priority is to upskill local talent and plug the gaps. To this end, we have developed the CAANZ/AUT Communications School which is a partnership with the Auckland University of Technology.

This year, 15 courses will be presented in Auckland with two of the programmes also available in Wellington.

They will feature top New Zealand and international talent including Mat Baxter (Naked Communications Sydney), Sharon Henderson (DDB), Rob Tillotson (Colenso BBDO), Tom Eslinger and Jason Dooris (Saatchi & Saatchi), Rebecca Houston (OMD), Wayne Lotherington (Allsorts Habit Creation Singapore), David Nottage (Torque), and Kate Smith (eat big fish). The school has been based on the highly successful IPA (Britain) and AFA (Australia) education models with a core focus on "best practice".

Industry practitioners develop the courses with the assistance of AUT with the university ensuring the programme meets degree standards.

Unfortunately, the CAANZ/AUT Communications School will not be able to upskill people quickly enough to fill the skills shortage.

Without the people we need, the communications industry will suffer and so will New Zealand business as a whole.

We are the lubricant that makes corporate and business growth possible and are a $2 billion industry in our own right.

We are also a test bed for many of our most lauded creative talent. People such as visual artist Dick Frizzell, film-makers Christine Jeffs, Nicky Caro, Andrew Niccol and Vincent Ward and business and community leaders Geoff Ross and Bob Harvey have all worked in the advertising industry at some stage of their creative careers.

With business growth at risk and the global spotlight on New Zealand creativity, the time is right for the Government to walk the walk.

* Mark Champion is chief executive of The Communications Agencies Association New Zealand.


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