â??Terrifying skill shortage more vital than taxesâ??

â??Terrifying skill shortage more vital than taxesâ??

By Rob Crossley

March 30th 2010 at 2:12PM

The key three political parties unanimously call for game education progress

Labour MP and tax break campaigner Tom Watson believes the most important issue for the industry is not state-supported cuts in production costs, but instead the ‘serious challenge’ of a brain drain in the UK.

Speaking last night at the ELSPA Pre Election Question Time event, Watson said that he was ‘horrified’ to witness David Braben’s presentation at the recent Westminster eForum debate.

At the time, Braben said that “the number of people studying computer science in the UK has fallen dramatically”, presenting a slide which showed a deep decline in computer science enrolment since 2001.

At the Question Time event last night, Conservatives MP Ed Vaizey echoed Watson’s sentiment by describing Braben’s presentation as “terrifying”, while Watson said it was “one of the most serious educational challenges we have to contend with.”

Said Watson: “To me the skills agenda is more important than the tax break announcement last week. There’s no point giving you a tax break if there’s no people to develop games.”

Liberal Democrat MP Don Foster said to attendees at the Question Time event that ”there’s probably unanimity in this room to get undergraduate and postgraduate courses sorted.”

He added: “The work that SkillSet is doing is hugely important. It’s frightening how few of the current university courses meet the accreditation standards, and we need to do much more about that.

“We need to go a stage further, and we need to recognise that the university funding settlement in relation to the different types of courses fails to currently recognise that courses that are accredited by SkillSet are often not funded at the same rate as the other more practical subjects, so there’s an issue there.”

The debate moved to game education at school level, with Watson calling for academia and industry to partner to “use the game environment to capture the imagination of students”.

Vaizey added: “It’s another reason why I love this industry. I mean, everything about you just answers politicians’ prayers, because one thing the industry can do is get kids interested in maths, interested in computer science, and interested in subjects that people give up to easily.