The Skills Programme

The BGI’s skills programme provides a growing range of training programmes, events and other initiatives designed to address endemic issues around lack of access to skills and poor diversity of candidates.

Games Education Summit
2019 saw the launch of the first of a series of annual conferences that convene leading games universities and colleges, games companies, third sector bodies and policymakers working in education. Over 100 delegates and 40 speakers from across these sectors gathered at the BGI’s National Videogame Museum in Sheffield on 15-16 April 2019 to speak on the subject.

The conference debated the big issues in games education including employability, diversity, skills required by studios, apprenticeships, how industry can collaborate with educators, best practice pedagogical and course design and starting up from university.

An important part of the GamesEd19 Summit is gathering data on the state of games education today, from both educators and studios, via a survey which was released and debated at the Summit.

The BGI runs Pixelheads after-school/weekend clubs for primary and early secondary schoolchildren in schools, libraries and other community centres.

Pixelheads teaches primary and secondary schoolchildren the meaning and value of games and how they are made. A structured course of workshops develops children’s understanding of games design before gently introducing them to development.

Originated in the National Videogame Arcade in Nottingham as a result of requests from visiting schools and parents, Pixelheads has been popular with schools and parents and, after running in 10 cities in 2018, is expanding in 2019, particularly in the Sheffield City Region, in collaboration with multiple partners and the BGI’s National Videogame Museum.

National Videogame Museum
The National Videogame Museum is the UK’s only permanent museum dedicated to videogames. Created by the founders of the National Videogame Archive and the GameCity Festival, the NVM is an educational museum that recently relocated to Sheffield. The NVM celebrates videogames and the people that made them, showcasing the art, science and technology used to create these amazing products.

The NVM features key stage-specific learning material and playful learning journeys for visiting schools that surface the STEAM skills required to develop games. The NVM and its predecessor in Nottingham, the National Videogame Arcade, have hosted hundreds of school visits from schools across the Midlands and the North of England.

The NVM has been repeatedly utilised by Research Organisations for impact studies, and is the focus of our own research team, which collaborates on formal research bids with several universities and which has published extensively since 2004 on games culture and the curation, preservation and interpretation of videogames. The NVM will showcase games made by a number of the UK’s leading games universities from 2019-2021.

What more is the BGI planning?
BGI is developing a range of educational programmes in concert with specialist education providers, leading games universities and games companies:

  • BGI is partnering with the Open University’s FutureLearn to train a diverse workforce online with the first course launching in early Q2 2019.
  • BGI is working with a leading games university on a ground-breaking skills initiative that we hope to announce later in 2019.
  • We are planning a training programme for games start-ups that includes expert training and mentorship.
  • We have planned an employer-led programme to research, acquire and catalogue the latest best practice games production and commercialisation techniques from leading games studios with the help of top UK universities.
  • We want to catalyse a more diverse workforce through apprenticeship programmes in games development and commercialisation, in partnership with leading skills organisations and universities, and look forward to announcing this initiative in 2019.

Why does the BGI focus on skills?
The UK games development market has been growing its heacount at over 7% per annum since the announcement of video games tax relief, an initiative that the BGI’s founders campaigned for and won over 6 years. The quality of raw recruits into games companies has been steadily increasing thanks to 2 accreditation schemes (one of them from TIGA) and the great work done by the NextGen Skills Academy and Women in Games. The sector has also benefitted from the inspirational work of Ukie, whose Digital Schoolhouse scheme is running in many schools around the country and the Grads in Games and Search for Star programmes from Aardvark Swift does great work helping graduates into industry.

Nevertheless, skills shortages remain acute and have been exacerbated by Brexit, the number of unaccredited games degrees and foundation courses has been growing at an unprecedented rate, and the diversity of candidates onto those courses has apparently remained stubbornly low. To retain its position as a world-leading games development sector, the UK needs to keep its highly skilled, highly educated, highly paid workforce up to date with the latest technological, production and commercial skills, taught using cutting-edge techniques.

One major challenge to a knowledge economy sector such as games development is keeping pace with change, especially in such a rapidly growing market. Public funding support for games has not been keeping pace with the sector’s requirements, which exacerbates the following long-term challenges to the games development sector:

  • Companies repeatedly report that they want to train their staff more. Thousands of games developers require training each year but many companies struggle to keep pace and can fall behind.
  • The government’s matched funding for the Skills Investment Fund for games companies ended in 2017, which significantly reduced access to funding for training that previously benefitted scores of companies.
  • There is a lack of online training to augment workplace training undertaken by many companies. This blended learning approach has consistently been shown to deliver stronger results, especially for women and the economically and educationally disadvantaged.
  • There are very few games-specific apprenticeships schemes in operation in the games sector, due to the cost, time consumption and difficulty of coordinating employers. We look forward to this starting to change in 2019.

Support for the BGI’s Skills programme
The BGI is an important and timely initiative to recognise excellence, support innovation and promote the UK games industry at a global level. Further, the BGI can act as a crucial link between industry, research and education; keeping the UK at the heart of cutting edge game development. Dr Mark Eyles, Animation, Games and Enterprise Section Lead, University of Portsmouth

 The BGI’s skills programme sounds like it will have real impact both for games universities like ours but also for the games sector. We welcome this kind of creative collaboration between industry and universities and look forward to being a part of the initiative. Chris Owen, Head of Cambridge School of Art, Anglia Ruskin University.

The UK games industry goes from strength to strength but its studios struggle to stay up to date with the latest skills. At FutureLearn we’ve been developing the Open University’s social learning platform for precisely the kind of skills programme being proposed by the BGI team and we’re strong supporters of the initiative, not least due to the breadth of support the BGI is winning from universities as well as hundreds of games companies. Simon Nelson, CEO, FutureLearn. 

 As the National Center of Excellence for Computer Games Education, Abertay University supports the creation of a nationwide organisation to deliver training and continuing development for games professionals as part of a broad spectrum of support for the whole sector. Professor Gregor White, Head of School of Design & Informatics, Abertay University

 My work on and initiatives has shown that the games industry needs an organisation that can channel the efforts of the many, pull together disparate groups, identify and support impactful projects and ensure that industry and academia are working in synergy to tackle the skills crisis. A central organisation with a strong voice like the BGI, with games at its heart, the right financial backing and the correct organisations involved, is required to help achieve the real change required. Ian Goodall, MD, Aardvark Swift

 The UK games industry changes rapidly to stay at the forefront of technology, so sharing best practice amongst developers is a key goal in optimising that process. Universities running high quality computer science for games courses are ideally positioned to work with industry and gather the latest intel, with the BGI acting as a hub for disseminating that critical information widely. Mark Featherstone, Course Leader, Computer Science for Games, Sheffield Hallam University

 NextGen would welcome a partnership with an organisation that will deliver the shared goals of supporting new talent, increasing the diversity of our workforce and upskilling those already in the industry. These are key if we are to retain our global position. Marcia Deakin, NextGen Skills Academy

 I fully support the formation of the BGI. Games have become an essential part of both our economy and culture and the UK needs to do all it can to support a thriving sector it should be proud of. The BGI offers the potential beyond other agencies to form an organisation across industry, academia, and other groups to provide high impact collaboration. It will also address significant fundamental challenges in education and maintaining our skill sets, as well as fostering new talent in this important sector. Charlie Hargood, Senior Lecturer in Games Technology, Bournemouth University

 We’re keen to support the BGI campaign which is a very timely proposition. As one of the largest games Schools in the country, many of our highly skilled graduates are working for innovative games and VR companies here and overseas. The BGI could greatly benefit the growth of our creative digital industries in the North East and potentially support our well established Animex festival. Siobhan Fenton, Associate Dean, School of Computing, Media and the Arts, Teesside University

 Having worked closely with the games and animation industries on a number of projects it has become very apparent to me that there needs to be a stronger voice and purpose when it comes to representation of the Games industry within the UK. For this reason I think that the proposal for a BGI is very welcome and, from my perspective, will facilitate the collaboration between games and related industries in areas such as skills development and the promotion of digital content companies to the public. Amy Smith, Head of Talent, Framestore