Major industry-wide skills programmes launched at Ukie’s Westminster Summer reception

This evening we used our Westminster Summer Reception, held on the Terrace of the Palace of Westminster, to re-launch the Video Game Ambassadors (VGA) scheme, calling for more industry professionals, especially women in the industry, to sign up.

Creative Industries Minister, Ed Vaizey MP, also used the event to speak about two new schemes that will improve games industry skills: one that will fund training for existing games industry professionals and another that will make it cheaper and easier for games businesses to take on trainees. Both these new schemes will be administered by Creative Skillset and will start with a pilot to be launched next month.

The two new schemes are funded from the Skills Investment Fund (SIF) announced by government at the end of last year, which has £1.5m ring-fenced for games. Both schemes will operate on a match-funding basis so that for each £1 employers contribute to the SIF, Creative Skillset will match with £1 from HM Treasury.

The new schemes have been developed in consultation with the Games Skills Advisory Council, formed by Creative Skillset in association with Ukie and TIGA, and chaired by Ian Livingstone CBE. The games industry will co-invest via a number of schemes, including the two pilot schemes launched today. Current priorities identified for the games industry are digital publishing skills, advanced management, up-skilling production teams to more specialised roles and new entrants.

Minister for Creative Industries, Ed Vaizey MP speaking about the two new SIF-funded schemes said: “Our skills and talent base form the backbone of the UK’s world class games industry. Government is absolutely committed to supporting this and I’m delighted to see that industry is making the most of the Skills Investment Fund which recently benefited from an additional £16m in Government funding. These two new schemes will help ensure we remain a world leader in this sector by providing additional training for the experts already out there, as well as acting as a strong incentive for industry to take on new trainees.”

Commenting on the new SIF-funded schemes, Jo Twist, CEO of Ukie said: “These great new schemes will make it easier and more affordable for games businesses to improve the skills within their existing teams and to access the latest graduate talent. We’ll be working through the Games Skills Advisory Council to make sure that the SIF is accessible to all games companies and not limited by their size or location within the UK and that this investment and future programmes secure a strong future for the UK games sector.”

Ukie also re-launched the Video Game Ambassadors (VGA) scheme this evening (a voluntary scheme run in partnership with STEMNET) to encourage more volunteers from the games industry to sign up. The scheme aims to inspire the next generation of games talent from across the UK. Last year 50 VGAs from different gaming backgrounds presented to over 3500 schoolchildren throughout the country about careers and opportunities within the games industry.

Announcing the re-launch of the VGA scheme at the event was Mike Weatherley, MP for Hove, who said: “The games industry is increasingly important economically and culturally to the UK. It is therefore vital that the UK continues to produce the next generation of talent. That’s why I’m delighted to welcome the re-launch of the Video Games Ambassadors scheme to make sure children are encouraged to learn the computer science, maths, physics and art required to keep Britain at the forefront of digital creation.”

Commenting on the VGA re-launch Ukie CEO Jo Twist said: “Inspiring the next generation of talent is vital for the games industry. We are looking for more people to become VGAs to share their experiences about making and selling games, telling their stories about how they got to be in their position – whatever their position. Our current ambassadors have done fantastic work inspiring thousands of kids since 2011 and we want different faces - including more women from the industry - whether you are in development, marketing or any other part of the sector, to sign up and inspire. It’s especially important for young girls to see women sharing their stories so that they may be inspired to programme, code, and be creative with it, so we can challenge stereotypes about STEAM subjects (science, technology, engineering, art and maths).”

Kirsten Bodley, Chief Executive of STEMNET thanked the Video Game Ambassadors for their support through the STEM Ambassadors Programme: “We are celebrating the UK’s world class games industry, but to ensure that it remains successful in future, we need to encourage the next generation of designers and developers. STEMNET is delighted to be working with Ukie to deliver its Video Games Ambassadors scheme, which is crucial to engaging more young people, especially girls, in STEM subjects and to take up careers in the games industry.”

Current ambassadors were also on hand at the event to offer their support of the scheme and the re-launch. Will Cowling, principle programmer at Sony London commented “I have been an ambassador for almost 2 years now, and have found it extremely rewarding both for myself, as well as being a very effective way of engaging young people and encouraging their interest”. And James Schall, European marketing director of Sega also commented “I have really enjoyed offering inspiration to kids that with a little hard work and passion, can work in a business they love and are interested in.”

A new VGA website was launched as part of the announcement which will: provide support for VGAs; a way of sharing advice; a chance to network with other VGAs; provide crucial statistics; give an easier gateway to sign up and a simple way for local schools to request a visit from their local games businesses.

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