Recruiting in the games industry is one of the best parts of my job. I’ve seen numerous games companies go from strength to strength with new titles and growing teams of developers, designers, product managers and data scientists. Last year consumer spend in the games industry reached £4.33 billion, with £1 billion generated solely from mobile games. It’s the leading exporter in our digital economy.
Recently, however, it’s been harder to anticipate the future and trajectory of the games industry in the UK and the north of England where I specialise, without a chilling sense of Brexit close by.
The facts are hard to deny: 35% of our flourishing games industry is built on the talent of EU nationals. A further 17% is built on talents from the rest of the world, leaving a meagre 48% from the UK. Overall, 65% of games businesses hire international talent to compensate the skills shortages in the UK talent pool.
A report published by NESTA in 2011 highlighted a number of “bottlenecks in the talent pipeline” in the games industry with Ian Livingstone CBE saying: “In the UK, the education system is failing to produce the talent of the calibre required.”
In light of this, the industry is taking matters into its own hands. Leading players in the gaming industry are tackling the recruitment crisis head-on by compiling degrees in High Performance Graphics and Games Engineering in partnership with the University of Leeds, which aim to deliver technical skills as well as innovative thinking for the industry’s future. Simon Barratt, Director of Barog Game Labs and board member of UKIE, says:
“We’re keen to work with the University of Leeds to help put a programme together that we know will produce graduates with the technical skills the industry demands. As an employer, this is exactly the type of course we need to produce the next technical innovators.”
Ad hoc campaigns are also popping up from gaming giants to support the UK industry’s future, such as Sony’s recent funding for coding camps for girls in Merseyside.
However optimistically you look at it, it’s hard to see either of these efforts plugging the looming skills shortage which will be left if the two-thirds of our EU workforce who are currently in immigration limbo have to leave. Smart money will still be on Theresa May negotiating to give talented EU nationals who fill our skills gap a blanket leave to remain.
The UK is home to exciting tech hubs with Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Liverpool all with positive outlooks for the future. Tech North’s March 2017 survey showcased that 85% were optimistic about the future of their digital economy, and I don’t see this fading.
70% of the UK game companies were founded in the last 7 years. It is fast paced and notoriously capricious, with many developers moving fluidly between companies during games cycles and many studios only worth the success of their last release. So long as we are perpetually looking forward, taking training into our own hands, and investing in our future, we are right to be optimistic about the future.