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Turning a passion for digital entertainment into a career after GCSE results

As young people across the country await GCSE results with trepidation, many will be asking themselves ‘what next?’

Lots of them will have enjoyed playing the latest video games over the summer holidays, or watching blockbuster movies and it is these very forms of entertainment that could provide the answer to that question.

Digital entertainment careers

The advent of modern technologies has created career opportunities in a host of cutting-edge industries based around digital entertainment.  Whether it’s creating the next Assassin’s Creed game, animating the next Shaun the Sheep movie or adding visual effects to Oscar-winning blockbuster movies like Gravity or Interstellar, there are fantastic opportunities for young people to turn their personal passions into highly professional careers.

From GCSEs to design studio

The question is how do you get from finishing your GCSEs to actually sitting in a game design studio and working on the creation of this year’s best-selling videogame?  For certain jobs and industries, the path to an ideal career might be obvious. In the creative industries, that isn’t always the case and young people might not think that careers in games, TV animation or visual effects (VFX) are accessible to them at all.

But here is the good news from those who have been there; today students making decisions about their future career journey not only have access to a wide range of information about what to do next, but they have fantastic choices about further education opportunities which are vocational and can help to guide them into their chosen careers with ease.

NextGen Skills Academy is a new government-invested initiative that is dedicated to developing the next generation of creative talent for the games, animation and VFX industries.  By working closely with employers in these areas to identify what skills they are looking for when they recruit young people, NextGen has been able to create a brand new qualification for 16+ year olds that offers young people the skills, techniques and experience these companies need right now. The Level 3 Extended Diploma in Games, Animation and VFX Skills (comparable to 3 A Levels) launches in four colleges across England from September 2015. The 2-year course will give students a broad range of knowledge, which encompasses everything from game and audio design to programming and 3D modelling and texturing.  It will provide the opportunity to develop the fundamental technical, artistic and industry practice skills that employers are demanding as well as encouraging students to learn how and why maths and programming are so important to the successful creation of any game, animation or visual effect ‘product’.

At the end of the course, students will have built a solid portfolio of work, which can be used as they move into higher education or apprenticeships with employers.

Work experience

During the course, students will also benefit from working with real employers and will gain an insight into the kinds of companies they might be interested in pursuing careers with.

 The games, animation and VFX sectors are young, dynamic and vibrant. In order to keep them that way, we wanted to create a route that allows employers to find the best new creative talent coming out of schools and ensure they are equipped with the most relevant skills needed to forge successful careers in these industries.”

Gina Jackson, Managing Director, NextGen Skills Academy

And they didn’t stop there.

Whilst this is only the start of the journey to ensure that young people can learn the right skills to open doors into video games development, animation or visual effects careers, it’s a real step in the right direction. Students emerging from the Level 3 diploma can either choose to move onto University or take advantage of one of four new Higher Apprenticeships being created by NextGen in the UK for the games and VFX industries, which promise to put young people ahead of the pack by combining on-the-job experience with studying for high-level qualifications.

With so much change occurring at pace in the creative industries, equipping bright, talented creative young people with a broader range of skills to enable them to make better career choices is not only responsible, it is essential to allow both them and our industries to get ahead of the game.

I’m interested.  What do I do next?

The Level 3 Extended Diploma will be starting this September in the following four colleges:

North East Surrey College of Technology (Nescot)

Uxbridge College

Sunderland College

Truro & Penwith College

To find out more and to register interest please visit

About Lynette Daly

Lynette is the publishing editor of Moving On magazine. Moving On is devoted to helping young people make good choices for their future – education, qualifications and careers. Moving On really wants to motivate you! Our articles cover a range of topics to inspire and give ideas. Our magazines are delivered free to all schools, colleges and sixth forms in England and is also available online.

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