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Interview: Vince Cable on the creative industries

06 February 2012

The government sees the creative industries as increasingly important to the recovery of the UK economy.

This was underlined when business secretary Vince Cable paid a visit to Channel 4’s HQ this morning. He was there to launch National Apprenticeship Week, and to announce that Skillset will offer payments of up to £1.5k to 500 small firms taking on their first apprentice.

The choice of location was something of a surprise, as apprenticeships are normally associated with manufacturing industries rather than the creative sector.

But the creative industries are currently recognised as one of the few growth areas in the UK economy. It’s a sector that the government hopes can play its part in training the one in five young people who are currently not in employment, education or training.

I spoke with Vince Cable at the launch and he said the reason he was launching National Apprenticeship Week at C4 is that “we do recognise how important the creative industries are to the national economy.” (It could also have something to do with the fact that Channel 4 is, conveniently, a short walk from the Houses of Parliament.)

Cable added that he was aware that the creative industries are dealing with two big issues as they seek further growth.  “One is the lack of skills, which is what we are trying to address here. And the other is access to capital through the banking system, and we are trying to deal with that separately.”

The creative industries, he added, are “quite a success story which has come through without promotion from the top, and that is a great credit to all the companies involved in it.”

“It has now grown to become a very big sector of the British economy. It unites very technical areas like IT skills with creative fashion, and it is often the fusion of these things which works and is giving Britain a very unique role. We have got to do what we can to get behind the industry.”

Today’s launch was attended by a wide range of companies from the creative industries, including C4, whose chief executive David Abraham hosted the event, the BBC, the British Fashion Council, McCann Erickson, Shed Media and the IPA.

Recent government figures showed that 1.5 million people are employed in the creative industries or in creative roles in other industries, 5.1% of the UK’s employment. Exports of services by the creative industries accounted for 10.6% of the UK’s exports of services.

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