During the lockdowns that started over 15 months ago, we have all changed our behaviour.
Not just in who and how we see people, how we travel and what we can do, but also in a massive increase of time spent in front of screens of one type or another. We have all had to adapt to different ways of living, learning, caring and working.
However, we have all become more highly digitally skilled and empowered and that will fundamentally change our society and economy for the future. It may well have been changing anyway and the pandemic may just have hurried up that shift.
So how will this change be seen? We already know that the amount of time spent on gaming activities or consoles/smart phones will equip individuals with particular skills around hand/eye coordination, dexterity problem solving and creative solutions.
Place that in a health setting and how they use robotic surgery with the consultant operating a console or keyhole surgery with similar techniques but in a very different setting.
We will be able to harness those digital and gaming skills to change much of what we do. There will be business opportunities around app development, creating new digital solutions, greater use of artificial intelligence and a different use of our leisure time. We have moved on from the days of Space Invaders to a new world of experts and remote team games, but they use the animation and creativity skills that are crucial to making that activity stand out.
The focus on creativity and animation is fundamental to this new world. This was exactly the same in 1861 when the Wolverhampton School of Design was established with a focus on using design principles to improve the quality of manufacturing.
Now we need to use those skills around animation and gaming to change many of our business practices.
This will lead to the region starting to become a bigger centre for the creative industries. Not just the growth of leisure activities, but also in terms of shaping business practice.
This need for those creating, drawing, designing, shaping skills are in great demand and we need to provide greater opportunities for young people to develop those skills.
The changing school curriculum and the more limited exposure to arts, music and performance undoubtedly means that fewer people have those skills.
This is the background to the university deciding to establish a Screen School ready for September 2021.
Our aim is to develop and open up a new and diverse talent pipeline required by the screen industry and to engage with creative students in the region so they can make informed choices and provide new career trajectories through screen skills.
Located in existing space within the University’s Alan Turing Building at the City Campus, the Wolverhampton Screen School will create state-of-the-art teaching facilities and equipment.
The new £5 million School will co-locate students from different disciplines in one space to create a ‘production house’ environment to enable them to work with peers on joint projects and develop a new and diverse talent pipeline for the creative industries.
It will also provide co-working spaces and professional development opportunities for those working in the digital arts and media industries, creating a network linking together academics, students and professionals with a range of skills.
Courses including computer games design, film and television production, animation, multimedia journalism, and media will be taught in the new Wolverhampton Screen School.
Current design students in the School of Art have already been involved in the project, providing their input into the concept designs and branding for the Screen School.
This focus on real-life briefs underpins much of our ethos at the university.
We are providing valuable experience for our students before they enter the world of work.
The new facility will enable a major focus with our partners on the rapidly growing esports economy which is both a leisure activity but also provides major opportunities for new developments, start up new businesses and of course highly skilled jobs.
This is a great example of how we can link the world of leisure with highly skilled jobs in a post pandemic world
The West Midlands region has been identified as an area of potential growth for the creative industries, and in March the BBC announced plans to move jobs and programmes outside of London to places including Wolverhampton and Birmingham.
We see the University as having an integral role in the growth in creative industries our region, and are excited about the opportunities it brings.
Our 10-year plan, Vision 2030, very much focuses on developing our people and place, and our new university Screen School cements this commitment.