Educational institutions play a crucial role in satisfying the game industry’s need for talent

The Animation Workshop in Viborg is one of the institutions educating talent for the game industry.

The Danish gaming industry lacks employees like never before. While some game studios are looking abroad to fill their vacancies, educational institutions have gradually begun to scale up their number of graduates.

Just a few years ago, it was difficult to get a foot in the door of the Danish gaming industry. That is not the case anymore. The industry is growing massively, and today it is hungering for more qualified employees, which has resulted in Danish game studios looking abroad or paying large sums to be put in contact with a candidate.

Kasper Kruse The Animation Workshop

The great demand is also felt at The Animation Workshop, which is part of VIA University College.

“There is a need in the industry that neither we nor the universities alone will be able to satisfy. Because when you look at the composition of a team in a gaming company, there is a need for many different competencies that you cannot find in a single educational institution in Denmark,” says Kasper Kruse, head of The Animation Workshop.

The Animation Workshop offers three different bachelors in animation, and each year around 65 people graduate from the school. From 2023, VIA University College will also offer a new education targeted at the gaming industry.

“VIA trains software engineers already, but from next year on we will offer a new software engineering program specializing in XR (Extended Reality, ed.) and gaming. We have not yet laid out the entire program yet, but we plan for the software engineers and animators to collaborate during their training,” Kruse says.

When the new software engineers have completed their training, they could very well end up as employees at game studios, Kruse says. But there could also be a need for their competencies in the more traditional industry, as more companies look towards the metaverse.

In any case, the gaming industry must be activated when the new engineering program is launched.

“Many of the teachers in the animation programs are guest teachers from the industry, who teach their core competencies. We will probably use the same model in the new programs. That is why it is important for the industry to be actively involved in the education system, because in many ways it is also an investment for the companies themselves, as they will probably train their future colleagues,” Kruse says.

More students at ITU

As the gaming industry is still relatively new, there are only a few core educations that are linked to the sector. This is the conclusion of the Labor Force Analysis of the Digital Visual Industry, which has been conducted for the Producers’ Association and Vision Denmark.

In 2019, 162 students graduated from the core educations, and among them, there is relatively low unemployment, while the wage development for many of these educations has been higher when compared with other industries. In other words, there is no stopping the gaming industry.

This is also noticeable at the IT University in Copenhagen, where 50 people graduate annually from the MSc in Games.

Miguel Sicart associate professor at ITU

“There is absolutely a lack of talent in the industry, and we would like to educate more people, but we can’t all of a sudden graduate twice as many. I do think, however, that we could accept 5-10 more people into the program annually,” says Miguel Sicart, who has 20 years of experience in the gaming world and is an associate professor at ITU.

Despite the demand for labor, Miguel Sicart is not a supporter of a BSc in Games.

“A bachelor’s degree should be a broad education that gives you a solid foundation on which you can build your specialization. Gaming is already a specialized field combining multiple disciplines. We would be educating students to work in a very narrow career path,” Sicart says.

Overseas talent

Danish Slipgate Ironworks is one of the game studios that has a hard time finding the right talent in Denmark. That is why the studio is hiring employees who live abroad.

“The talents we need in order to create our productions are extremely difficult to find in Denmark. By having freelancers working remotely, we can find the right talent anywhere in the world. It also means that the freelancers can work where and when they want, which is an advantage for many,” says Frederik Schreiber, CEO of Slipgate Ironworks.

In total, the game studio has an organization of about 200 people, but only 25 of them work at the office in Aalborg. However, Slipgate Ironworks gives everyone the opportunity to move to Denmark and work. The game studio even has an employee whose only job is to take care of residence permits and the like. Because even though working remotely creates flexibility, there are disadvantages as well.

“When you work on a larger project, it is a drawback that you cannot turn around and ask your colleague for advice, because the colleague may be in a completely different time zone. Therefore, I would definitely hire more locally in Aalborg, if it was an opportunity,” Schreiber says.

Frederik Schreiber CEO of the studio Slipgate Ironworks

Therefore, Schreiber is also positive about the prospect of more Danish educational programs targeted at the gaming industry. However, the director of Slipgate Ironworks has some clear views on what it should include.

“If I were to do a software engineering education in Denmark, I would focus on the programming language called C++ and low-level programming. In Denmark, few people are trained in the language, despite the fact that it is a competence that almost all game studios need or at some point will need,” Schreiber says.

Disrupted industry

The gaming industry is constantly evolving and is time and again disrupted. Therefore, the game educators also have an obligation to teach the students the subjects that are most relevant to the industry.

“One of the ways we keep the curriculum updated is to collaborate with the local industry. We have two employer’s panels that meet twice a year, who have access to the courses and give us feedback and suggestions in order to improve them,” Sicart says.

Kasper Kruse is also aware of the industry’s rapid development and the need for cross-disciplinary collaboration.

“If you want to put together an effective game team, you need people with a wide variety of skills and backgrounds. So the need to link the more creative competencies with IT competencies is huge. Therefore, the educational institutions must complement each other and cooperate, as far as that is possible,” Kruse says.

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