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December 14, 2018

How to look at art: Art and employment

Kenyan creative
Kenyan creative

In the 3rd millennium, the rate of progress will be a 1,000 times more than in the 20th century. New technologies will increase the speed of commerce. Growth and competitiveness is increasingly driven by creativity and innovation. “Innovation,” said Barack Obama, “is the currency of the 21st century.”

To meet the challenges of the ‘innovation economy’, business needs employees creative enough to identify and solve problems in novel ways. Sixty three per cent of employers say creativity is a primary hiring criterion; academic qualifications are no longer enough.

For employers, a sign of creativity is employee’s education in the arts. Fifty six per cent of business executives named art as an indicator of creativity; only 40 per cent named science, and 57 per cent, entrepreneurial experience. 

“We need creative people — people who have played in a band, who have painted. They know how to think outside the paradigm, to kick-start a new idea, to get a job done better,” said GlaxoSmithKline CEO Annette Byrd. Indeed, young people who had studied art (drama, music, writing) are among the most employable. They enjoy higher salaries and enter professional or managerial jobs. Creativity is ‘more important than knowledge,’ said Albert Einstein. Creativity can be taught and learned. According to creativity expert Edward Be Bono, ‘only five hours of creativity training given to unemployed youth increases their employment rate five times’.

In Kenya, six million young people aged 18-25 are unemployed. There is virtually no art in school: only two per cent of secondary schools offer art in Kenya ( 85 per cent in the US). Are schools aware that employers seek creative young people? Do schools recognise the importance of cultivating creative abilities through the arts? Does the government see fostering creativity as a priority? More than 70 per cent of US business executives believe education for creativity must be a government priority (only second to the healthcare).

Eighty five per cent of employers express serious concerns about their inability to recruit creative employees. According to an Ernst & Young and Business Council for Africa, investments create 350,000 jobs a year in Africa. But 75 per cent of chief executives report that difficulty finding ‘creative talent’ to fill these jobs threatens their companies’ growth and even survival.


Data taken from: Conference Board, Business Council, IBM, Scottish Executive Tourism, Culture and Sport, Information and Analytical Services, Corporate Voices for Working Families, The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, Society for Human Resource Management, Americans for the Arts, American Association of School Administrators, Ernst & Young, and Business Council for Africa.


Alla Tkachuk founded Mobile Art School in Kenya. Become ‘Kenya Patron of the Arts’, contact Alla for more information on [email protected]

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