Last week I was asked to present at the Annual Administrator’s Conference “The Learning Edge.” My topic: how to best teach and reach creative students in the classroom. Our company has been hiring creative folks for over 30 years, so I was glad to share my own experience and that of our creative team.
First, I wanted to prove how important creative jobs are in our economy. Many people were surprised to learn that developing creative talent is actually good for business. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the creative industry is responsible for $700 billion annually in the United States. Demand for creative jobs has risen 40% in the last decade, with one in 12 new jobs being creative in nature.
The creative industries offer many more opportunities now than when I grew up. When I was in high school, I had no idea what was out there. While most classes bored me, I loved to draw and write, but I had no idea that I could make money doing what I love. I can remember my dad telling me repeatedly, “art is fun…but you need to find a real job”.
Lucky for me, my high school art teacher encouraged me to enter a graphic design contest. After taking first place, I went back east for the national competition where I was first exposed to the creative world. I think I came in last place in the contest, but I got to meet the creative judges who just so happened to be creative bigwigs from different advertising agencies. I couldn’t believe that it was possible to be paid to do what I loved to do (and work with really cool people while I was at it). I had found my future career.
While I know that there are many more creative jobs available today, as I prepared for my presentation, I wondered if our current creative team had an earlier introduction to the creative world than I did. I was surprised to find out many still had no idea in high school that their creative skills would lead to their current job.
I showed videos of our creative folks discussing their high school years. They had some of the same issues I did: not focusing in classes that bored them and not fitting into the perfect student profile. They all agreed that creative exposure was incredibly important. If you take high school students to different creative firms early on, for example, it can get them excited about their creative skills and show them how important it is to start developing their talents early.
At the conclusion of my presentation, a high school principal approached me with a very interesting dilemma. He said his oldest son is a straight-A student who wants to be an engineer and has already picked the university he plans to attend. Then he told me he was concerned that his middle son, who plays lots of video games and spends weeks getting ready for Comic Con, would struggle to find a “real” job. I told him not to worry, his son could be the next Star Wars director or design the next AAA video game hit. The key was showing him that his passion could turn into a job that he will love. The world needs creative people and engineers, and I think it’s about time we started showing our high school students how their creativity can turn into a fulfilling career.