Feature: Is Creativity the Key to Career Happiness in the Public Sector?

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DiscussionTom Bewick, chief executive of Creative and Cultural Skills the sector skills council for the advertising, craft, cultural heritage, design, music, performing, literary and visual arts, outlines the findings of an independent study undertaken for the SSC. The survey looked at the career aspirations of UK employees and examined the importance of creativity in the workplace. This article focuses on the responses given by employees working in the public sector (809 out of a total sample of 2,158).

When they were children, public sector workers were more likely to dream about being a doctor, a nurse or a teacher than a famous footballer or a movie star our survey found.

And although for 35% of public sector employees, these dream careers changed when they grew up, teaching remains a firm favourite for public sector workers both in childhood and in adulthood, as the tables below illustrate.

Top 10 dream jobs for public sector workers when they were children
1. Doctor/Nurse
2. Teacher
3. Vet
4. Actor/Movie Star
5. Footballer
6. Writer
7. Pilot
8. Designer
9. Dancer/Ballerina
10. Pop Star/Singer/Musician
Top 10 dream jobs for public sector workers as adults
1. Writer
2. Teacher
3. Landscape Gardener
4. Paramedic
5. Photographer
6. Police Officer
7. Physiotherapist
8. Movie Director
9. Restaurant Owner
10. Musician

However, whatever their career ambitions, only 15% of public sector employees have managed to achieve them.

More than a third – 35% - say they changed their minds about their future careers as they grew up, but sadly 26% admit they never pursued their dream because they thought it was unrealistic.

More information needed for young people
More than half of those surveyed don’t think that the education they received at school has any relevance to the job they do now in the public sector. And out of the 44% of public sector respondents who have a degree, 28% say that it is either not at all relevant or only vaguely relevant to their current occupation.

And more than half the sample also say they would have made a different career choice if an apprenticeship in their dream job had been made available to them when they were younger. Most respondents – 62% - would actually consider changing career even now if financial help was available to help them make the move into their dream job.

Lack of creativity
Although 54% of public sector employees described their childhood dream career as creative this hasn’t translated to their adult jobs in the sector. Nearly half – 46% - describe the jobs they do today as “not at all creative” and a further 44% cite them as only “slightly creative”.

Despite this, a staggering 65% of public sector employees would like the chance to be more creative at work. But 64% think their bosses are unaware of their creative talents.

Clearly, creativity isn’t just restricted to those who are working directly within the creative sector itself. Teaching is a prime example of this. Bearing in mind the creativity teachers demonstrate every day in the classroom it's no surprise that teaching is such a popular dream career for children and adults alike.

Nurturing creative talent
According to three-quarters of those surveyed, career fulfilment is more important to public sector workers than financial reward. These findings should send a message to all public sector employers to nurture their latent creative talent.

* For more information on Creative and Cultural Skills go to its website Creative Choices.

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