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Importance of creative skills, storytelling and emerging technologies highlighted during national CHEAD conference at Kingston University

Posted Friday 17 March 2023

Importance of creative skills, storytelling and emerging technologies highlighted during national CHEAD conference at Kingston University Kingston University dance students perform for delegates during a break between sessions at the CHEAD conference.

Leading figures from the worlds of art and design, business and politics have shared their views about the vital role creative skills and design thinking will play in shaping the future of the United Kingdom at a major conference hosted by Kingston University. The impact of emerging technologies on the creative sector and the skills needed for the next generation of graduates to help drive a thriving national economy were key focuses of the annual Council for Higher Education in Art and Design (CHEAD) conference.

Alongside themes of sustainability and equality, diversity and inclusion, senior art and design educators from across the UK turned their attention to ways they could ensure students were equipped with future skills – such as creative thinking, problem solving and digital competency – needed to adapt to the rapidly changing needs of industry.

As part of a keynote address, Shadow Business Minister Seema Malhotra MP highlighted the importance of Kingston University's sector-leading work championing future skills and the pivotal part they would play in securing the country's long-term economic success. Informed by YouGov research conducted with 2,000 firms to identify the graduate attributes most valued by business, future skills teaching is now set to be embedded within every undergraduate degree at the University as a central part of its Town House Strategy. 

“Kingston University’s Future Skills report highlights that what businesses want is that government prioritises investing in a skilled and adaptable workforce,” Ms Malhotra told conference delegates. “This is significant because, when we’re talking about future skills, it’s not just about being a subject matter expert. Innovation and creative abilities matter in all sectors but need to be designed into learning and how we learn.”

The UK’s creative industries were key to growth and unlocking opportunity across the country, she added. “These skills become directly supportive of how we grow our economy. This is a challenge that needs a whole system approach, with integrated thinking across business, academia and government, with everyone playing their part,” she said.

Those sentiments were echoed by John Lewis and Partners' futurologist John Vary, who told delegates his role was not about predicting the future, but creating it – with design thinking central to those efforts. “We’re a civilisation of inventors and creators. We identify problems not everyone can see. Art and design and creativity is what makes us human in a world where we are surrounded by science and algorithms. The human story should drive technology and everything we do in society,” he said.

Filmmaker Lord David Puttnam was among other leading creatives to deliver addresses at the conference. He outlined the importance of ensuring art and design graduates used emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality, to extend their vision and access. Creative director of Creative Conscience Chrissy Levett spoke about the power of storytelling in influencing and inspiring change, while Turner Prize winner Elizabeth Price, who is also a Professor at Kingston School of Art, outlined the particular value of an arts education and the transferable skills students acquired through making artworks.

Conference organiser Professor Alistair Payne, from Kingston School of Art, said the conference had provided a space to discuss some of the key challenges and opportunities facing the creative sector. “It also enabled us to come together as a creative community to consider where we need to advocate for art and design education with government and across the political landscape,” Professor Payne, who will become joint vice-chair of CHEAD in June, said. “It’s been invigorating to talk to colleagues from across the country about the actions we can take forward collectively to support arts education, alongside the future skills agenda, which has been so powerfully positioned through the University’s last two Future Skills reports and is now being embedded throughout our curriculum.”

A performance by Kingston School of Art students at Knights Park on the opening eve of this year's annual CHEAD conference. Image by Deneil Harrison.A performance by Kingston School of Art students at the Knights Park campus on the opening eve of this year's annual CHEAD conference. Image by Deneil Harrison (@Casthecameraman).

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