NextGen Skills Academy and Northern Ireland Screen collaborate to enhance creative gaming education in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Screen has announced an innovative partnership with NextGen Skills Academy, aimed at bolstering Games, Animation, and Visual Effects expertise in three Northern Ireland Further Education colleges.

The two-year pilot programme will facilitate direct industry engagement from a range of international and local creative studios, improving students' employability prospects in the creative industries, one of the fastest growing sectors in Northern Ireland’s economy.

NextGen’s programmes are advised and supported by a steering group of notable employers including Industrial Light & Magic, renowned for their visual effects work in franchises such as Star Wars and Indiana Jones, as well as Creative Assembly, the creative force behind international gaming franchises like Total War, and Blue Zoo, the animation studio responsible for family favourites such as Numberblocks and The Adventures of Paddington.

From this September, Belfast Met, Northern Regional College and Southern Regional College will offer courses in conjunction with NextGen Skills Academy. Each college will deliver a Level 3 vocational course, equivalent to three A Levels, aimed at school leavers who have a passion for games, animation and visual effects (VFX). Prospective applicants can access the course information via each college’s website.

This initiative will enable students to work on live industry projects, receive feedback from employers, and sharpen their skills to professional standards.

Welcoming the initiative, Marcia Deakin, Co-Founder of NextGen said:

"NextGen Skills Academy is excited and proud to collaborate with Northern Ireland Screen to enhance the Further Education provision in Northern Ireland. The screen industries are vibrant across Northern Ireland, and we look forward to working closely with local studios to create an Employer Steering Group. Through this work and our industry engagement opportunities, students will gain valuable exposure to current best practices, boosting their confidence and employability skills, thus laying a strong foundation for their creative careers."

Richard Williams, Chief Executive Officer of Northern Ireland Screen commented:

“Embracing the power of collaboration, we are thrilled to announce our visionary partnership with NextGen Skills Academy, united in our mission to nurture and elevate the future of Games, Animation, and Visual Effects expertise within Northern Ireland. The partnership will empower students in three Further Education colleges across Northern Ireland, fostering a generation of trailblazers, armed with the skills, knowledge, and inspiration to leave an indelible mark on the global stage of digital creativity, and further harnessing innovation and elevating Northern Ireland's creative potential."

Christine Brown, Vice Principal for Teaching and Learning at Northern Regional College said the collaboration highlighted how FE colleges are responding to changing employer needs:

“FE colleges play a key role in ensuring people have the necessary skills for today’s rapidly changing business environment and make an important contribution to achieving the DfE’s (Department for the Economy) Economic Vision. Digital, ICT and the Creative Industries is one of the five priority clusters identified in the DfE 10X Economic Strategy, so this collaboration with Northern Ireland Screen and NextGen Skills Academy is very timely.  
The Vice Principal added: “Thanks to the support of Northern Ireland Screen, this is a wonderful opportunity to work in partnership with NextGen Skills Academy and we look forward to building on the success of these pilot programmes in the coming years.”

Stephen Rogan, Head of Faculty for Computing, Design and Academic Studies at Southern Regional College further commented:

“With the support of Northern Ireland Screen and NextGen Skills Academy we are delighted to once more be offering students the opportunity to gain skills relevant to employers’ needs.
We live in a rapidly changing environment, so to offer students the chance to work on live projects and gain relevant industry feedback, alongside lecturer coaching and mentoring support will without doubt set students up for success in their future career path.

As the creative landscape of Northern Ireland evolves, this partnership between Northern Ireland Screen and NextGen Skills Academy stands as a beacon of innovation and collaboration. This initiative promises to shape a new generation of creative trailblazers.

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