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UK Career Coach and Creative Business Coach

The Importance of Arts Education to the Future of Young People

Updated: Mar 2

Participation in the arts is an important part of a young person's education and is an essential part of building cultural capital. This article will explore the benefits of including expressive arts in the curriculum, findings from the 'The Youth Voice Censor' and how the industry can collaborate with education to inspire and empower young people.

The Importance of Arts Education to the Future of Young People

Table of Contents


What are the Creative Industries

In 2016, the Department of Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) developed a definition of the Creative Industries, identifying nine creative sectors;

  • Advertising and Marketing

  • Architecture

  • Crafts

  • Design

  • Film, TV, Video, Radio and Photography

  • IT

  • Publishing

  • Museums

  • Music, Performing and Visual Arts

The creative industries are the cornerstone of the UK economy, contributing £108 billion per year in gross added value (GVA) and employing over 2.3 million people. In June 2023, the government announced their plans to grow the creative industries by another £50 billion and support a million more jobs by 2030.

However, reports indicate that the creative industries are experiencing a significant skills gap, and there has been a decline in the teaching of arts in education. This raises the question of how these future jobs will be filled.

'The arts are a resource from which people can draw inspiration for creative thinking. They are not soft subjects; they offer a body of skills, knowledge and understandings that generate a disciplined route to the acquisition of creativity.' Durham Commission on Creativity and Education

Expressive Arts Curriculum

Wales and Scotland are leading the way when it comes to integrating the arts into the curriculum.  The Expressive Arts Curriculum is a collective term that encompasses art and design; dance; drama; film and digital media and music.

'The purpose of every school and setting’s curriculum is to support our children and young people to be: ambitious, capable learners, ready to learn throughout their live; enterprising, creative contributors, ready to play a full part in life and work; ethical, informed citizens of Wales and the world and healthy, confident individuals, ready to lead fulfilling lives as valued members of society.' Welsh Curriculum

Expressive arts complement and enrich the rest of the curriculum subjects and give young people access to a range of opportunities that not only build their creativity and imagination but also equip learners with an array of transferable skills such as communication, teamwork, problem-solving, critical thinking, empathy and resilience.

Writing, music, and visual arts have been found to facilitate divergent thinking, which can help young people see problems from numerous perspectives and develop innovative and creative ways of solving them. Having the ability to think in both convergence and divergent thinking styles is a sort after work skill that can help businesses to solve and overcome hurdles and stay ahead of their competition.

The World Economic Forum details the top 10 business skills for 2027 that young people will need:

World Economic Forum Top 10 Future Business Skills

Example of how expressive arts complements other subjects:

  • Literacy: Reading plays, performing plays, and writing their own plays.

  • Numeracy: Music notation, arranging a budget, playing an instrument, dancing a routine, working to deadlines, creating costumes.

  • Digital Competency: Photo editing and production technology.

  • Social Studies: Evaluate and analyse classical texts and plays, as well as trips to museums and theatres.

  • Science: Basic set lighting, creating art circuits and colour experimentation.

  • History: Explore the themes of classical texts. 

Access to the arts has been found to improve overall mental health and well-being through the freedom of self-expression of feelings and emotions and also to help young people learn empathy and recognise the emotions of others.

Every Child Matters Policy

The Every Child Matters Policy (2003) details five key outcomes that are required for young people's well-being. These are:

  • Being healthy: enjoying good physical and mental health and living a healthy lifestyle.

  • Staying safe: being protected from harm and neglect and growing up able to look after themselves.

  • Enjoying and achieving: getting the most out of life and developing broad skills for adulthood.

  • Making a positive contribution: to the community and to society and not engaging in anti-social or offending behaviour.

  • Economic well-being: overcoming socio-economic disadvantages to achieve their full potential in life.

A survey by the NHS found that 1 in 5 children and young people aged 8 to 25 years had a probable mental disorder. The arts are frequently used in therapeutic therapies and are proven to improve mental health and well-being and foster creativity and resilience.

An arts enrichment gap still exists in the UK between private and state schools. The inclusion of arts into the curriculum is not only an economic need; it's also a social justice issue.

'Those from working-class backgrounds are significantly under-represented in the Creative Industries. In 2020, a little over one in four roles (26 per cent) in the sector were filled by those from lower socio-economic backgrounds. This is evident across different creative sub-sectors and means that those from a privileged background are twice as likely to be employed in the Creative Industries than their working-class counterparts.' Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre

Arts education can empower young people to enable them to make a positive contribution to society and achieve their full potential. Access to the arts is not only about supplying workers for the creative sector; the arts also have the power to enrich young people's lives both in the now and in the future.

Upward mobility is encouraged through integrating the arts into the curriculum, equipping all young people, regardless of their socioeconomic background, with the skills and abilities needed to access a wider range of opportunities.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is changing the way we live, work and relate to each other. The world of work is becoming more globalised and borderless, and soft skills such as interpersonal and intercultural communication are becoming increasingly important. The arts help young people learn how to adapt, communicate through different means, develop a deeper understanding of, and foster an appreciation for diversity and different cultures.

'A child’s imagination and creativity are enriched through their awareness of art and other children around them. All of these creative experiences build powerful connections within the brain, Creativity is associated with focus, independence, a willingness to explore and ingenuity.' DWP Help for Early Years Providers

Expressive Arts

Findings from the Youth Voice Censor

Over 4000 young people aged 11 to 30 participated in the Youth Voice Censor 2023, which is an annual check for feedback on how young people feel about study and work.

The survey found that more creative and technical education was needed to ensure young people had access to a more balanced curriculum, which would more adequately prepare them for the future.

It also found a high number of youths decided not to apply for work roles because the role asked for higher qualifications than they currently had (48.1%), and the person's specifications had too many requirements (41.5%).

Creative work was found to be a popular choice amongst all races and ethnicities surveyed when thinking about their future career interests, with 51.3% of young people interested in a creative career.

Of those looking for work, 47.4% of young people were seeking creative work. Of those in employment, only 4.2% worked in creative jobs, and of those in apprenticeships, only 1.8% worked in a creative apprenticeship.

However, of those working in self-employment, 35% worked in a creative role, and 38.8% had chosen the route of self-employment as it was the only option for them, with 75.5% working in self-employment as it allowed them to explore their passions.

Due to a lack of provision on how to become self-employed, with 58.3% not receiving any support, young people learned most of what they knew about self-employment from social media. This meant they had faced many challenges, such as visibility, networking, and understanding basic admin, such as invoicing and contracts; the business side of being self-employed.

'Although freelancers make up 15% of the workforce; they represent about 32% of the creative industries, rising to 70% for the visual arts and 70% for theatre, while 80% of musicians are freelancers' House of Lords

Considering that the vast majority of the work in the creative industries is self-employed, perhaps this is another consideration when it comes to the education of young people and providing tailored training and resources that equip and prepare young people with these much-needed freelance business skills.

The Importance of Working with the Industry

The Gatsby Benchmarks highlights the importance of giving young people access to a range of opportunities so that they may make informed choices about their future. A key to this is collaborative working and the industry and education working together.

These opportunities include partnerships with professional arts companies and cultural organisations. They can provide insights into the importance of working in the arts and its role in the economy. Professionals can also help to inspire teachers with a clearer vision of what skills and knowledge they need in their workers. Organisations benefit by creating a pipeline of future qualified talent that meets their needs, making it a win-win situation.

Through Collaborative working, young people can connect what they're learning in the classroom with tangible, hands-on industry experience. This hands-on experience shows young people what will be expected of them in the world of work and how they can meet those expectations. It also helps them to see value in their classroom learning, which can lead to more motivated and focused learners. This experiential learning builds a young person's confidence, self-efficacy and belief in themselves, which leads to personal growth and considering career paths outside of their immediate social circle.

There are various ways that businesses can get involved with schools, including speaking at career events, offering mentorship and mock interviews and becoming Enterprise Advisors.

'Arts partnerships involving teachers, artists and arts organizations continue to be popular as a means of delivering arts education. Acting as an intermediary between schools and artists, arts brokers can be crucial to the successful implementation of these partnerships.' Bridging the Gap

Companies Offering Work Experience and Enrichment Activities


Integrating expressive arts into the curriculum contributes not only to the economy but also to social cohesion. An arts education equips young people with the skills for life and for work. It improves a young person's well-being, helps them to understand different cultures and appreciate diversity, and builds belonging and solidarity.

Through collaborative work of education with businesses, we can offer young people real-world experience that brings classroom learning alive and instils them with experiences that help not only build their skills and knowledge but also help them to learn more about who they are and who they want to become.

"Art is the key that unlocks the world of the artist, and the artists response unlocks a world that mirrors society." Creativity, the Arts, and the Future of Work.



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