New TIGA research reveals the effect of skills shortages on UK games development
TIGA, the trade association representing the UK video games industry, has highlighted the impact of the current game development skills shortages in its latest report, the TIGA Skills Report 2023.
TIGA’s research has revealed that over the past 12 months, 68 per cent of the studios surveyed have found it difficult, or very difficult, to fill vacancies in their workforce. The disciplines most affected are Programming, with 24 per cent of respondents reporting difficulties in filling vacancies in this area; Art (22 per cent); and Design (22 per cent).
The report also pinpoints the issues contributing to the skills shortages, with respondents highlighting two key areas:
- A shortage of applicants with the required skills, experience or qualifications (93 per cent);
- The poaching of skilled staff by other games businesses (47 per cent).
The situation is having serious implications for those studios that report having experienced skills shortages over the past 12 months:
- 59 per cent said that it had hindered the growth of their organisation;
- 59 per cent reported that it had delayed the development of new products and services;
- 73 per cent noted that skills shortages had increased the workload for other staff;
- 64 per cent revealed that skills shortages had driven a greater need to outsource work.
However, games businesses are finding ways to tackle these challenges: 91 per cent have made internal promotions to cover a hard to fill vacancy; 90 per cent have tried new recruitment methods; 81 per cent have increased salaries; and 81 per cent have increased training for existing staff.
Games development studios are committed to training, with all survey respondents providing it for their employees. Just over two fifths of respondents (41 per cent) provide on-the-job training not leading to qualifications, and a further 28 per cent provide formal courses not culminating in qualifications.
Meanwhile, in a typical year, games businesses on average recruit almost 80 per cent of new hires from existing industry practitioners, 21 per cent are recent graduates and only half a per cent (0.5 per cent) are apprentices.
The skills shortage is having a negative impact on the UK games industry’s ability to grow and prosper. TIGA has proposed and has campaigned for the following measures to improve skills and training.
- The Government can help to ensure that the UK remains world leading in video games development by ensuring that higher education is adequately funded. The UK video games industry depends upon higher education for skilled graduates.
- The Government could introduce a Training Tax Relief (TTR) to encourage investment in workforce development. This could be modelled on the existing R&D incentives. The TTR would need to be designed to ensure additionality and that expenditure was focused on good quality skills provision that contributes to employability, productivity and career progression.
- The establishment of an Industrial Secondments Programme (ISP) to enhance skills development by enabling lecturers to spend up to 12 months in a games development business.
- The reinstatement of the Skills Investment Fund (SIF) to provide matched funding for games industry skill development.
- The funding for BTECs to be retained and enhanced to bolster the supply of talent to work in the UK’s high skills video games sector. Suitable T-Levels for the games industry should be developed. BTECs have provided an important route into higher education, including for games courses. Nearly 20,000 learners completed Level 3 BTECs in Creative Media and Art and Design in 2021. Approximately 3,000 of these studied specific pathways or units for Games Design and Development.
- The Apprenticeship Levy should either be scrapped or transformed into a general training levy, thereby permitting employers to fund any high-quality training programme. There are currently two games specific programmes – Digital Community Manager Level 4 and Game Programmer Level 7. Some games studios pay the apprenticeship levy but struggle to benefit from apprenticeship programmes.
- The Government and industry should work together, engaging with community and EDI-focused organisations such as Women in Games, to increase diversity within the industry to ensure that the sector can access the widest possible range of skills.
- Finally, the Government should ensure that the UK’s migration system enables games businesses to effectively recruit highly skilled people from overseas. The Government should retain the existing roles on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) that are relevant to the video games industry. TIGA has recommended retaining eight existing roles relevant to the games industry on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) and adding a further five. The Migration Advisory Committee has recommended abolishing the SOL. However, this would be damaging for the video games industry. TIGA research amongst a sample of larger studios indicates that in a typical year 22 per cent of new recruits are on average recruited via the SOL.The abolition of the SOL would mean recruitment delays and increased costs for games businesses.
TIGA’s CEO Dr Richard Wilson OBE, who authored the Skills Shortage Report, said: “The UK video games industry invests in training, but skill shortages persist and can hinder business growth and production. At the very least the Government should follow the principle of the Hippocratic Oath and refrain from doing harm. In practice, this means that the Government should maintain funding for industry relevant BTECs and retain the SOL. We need to ensure that UK game studios can hire from a skilled and diverse recruitment pool in order to maintain our position as a leader on the global games development stage.”
Jason Kingsley OBE, TIGA Chairman and Creative Director at Rebellion, offered: “The skills shortage in the UK video games industry is having serious implications for games development studios and other associated ? businesses. We call on the Government to support us in addressing these issues to ensure the continued growth of individual games companies and the UK games industry in general.”
20 games businesses employing 3,885 developers, or 16 per cent of the UK games development workforce, responded to a TIGA skills survey in September 2023. Small, medium and large studios developing games for console, mobile, PC and VR participated in the survey.
TIGA is the trade association for the UK video games industry. TIGA’s vision is to make the UK the best place in the world to develop video games. To this end, TIGA:
- engages with policymakers to create an environment favourable to video games development;
- enhances education and skills through our accreditation programme, the TIGA Games Education Awards and our education conference;
- promotes best practice through our membership services, including the TIGA STAR Employer Award and the TIGA Games Industry Awards;
- conducts primary research into the games sector, surveying hundreds of companies each year about the business environment, support policies and the health of the industry.
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