Creative industries pathways to youth employment in the COVID-19 recession

The challenge

The ‘problem’ of young people’s transitions from school to work, and how governments, businesses, schools, communities and individuals can manage young people’s education, training and employment pathways has been a significant feature of youth policy since the early 1980s. This is especially evident in Australia and in many other developed economies.

At various times this ‘problem’ has taken on greater importance. Including during and after the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-09, and in the still unfolding context and consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and the social and economic lockdowns of the last two years.

This project aims to develop our understanding of how young people who engage in the creative industries and art practices learn 21st-century skills.

Project overview

The skills and experiences of young people in arts programs will be captured and accredited as part of a new collaborative research project funded by the Australian Research Council. “Vital Arts: Skilling Young People for the Future” is a joint project with researchers at Deakin University, RMIT, RMIT Vietnam, and the Australia Council for the Arts that will engage with a range of partners across the youth arts sector to build micro-credentials that recognise the employable skills developed through youth arts activities, creating new pathways to employment. The project is structured through three interconnecting themes:

1. Young People, Diversity and Creative Practice

This theme acknowledges the diversity of skills and knowledges represented in the youth arts sector. Through arts and creative industries young people are developing diverse skillsets, such as: critical thinking, collaboration, curiosity, and social and cultural awareness. These 21st century skills can help to build community resilience into a rapidly changing workforce, providing young people with a foundation to flourish.

2. Digital Badges: Capturing and Creating Value

This theme explores the uses of digital badges to demonstrate and accredit skills learnt through youth arts programs and practices. Micro-creds are a fairly recent, digitally enabled approach to the accreditation of skills and training outcomes. The project will work with industry partners to explore the potential uses of micro-creds to recognise the 21st century skills learnt through their youth arts programs.

3. 21st Century Skills for the Future of Work

This theme explores the future of work and the skills young people will need to flourish in uncertain environments. There is much we do not know about the future of work, however, what is clear is that young people are going to need skills that are adaptable and transferable across industries and circumstances. These 21st century skills are going to be vital predictors of a young person’s ability to flourish into the future.


Outcomes include pathways from arts to employment and job-ready skill development, through micro-credentials that showcase skills to employers. The benefits of this project align with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 4, 5 and 8: ‘to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all, achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, and promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

Project team

Professor Peter Kelly (CI, Deakin University)

Professor Anna Hickey-Moody (RMIT University)

Associate Professor Scott Brook (RMIT University)

Dr Tammy Wong Hulbert (RMIT University)

Dr Rimi Khan (The National University of Singapore)

Dr Christen Cornell (Research Fellow and Manager, Research Partnerships: Australia Council for the Arts)


Australian Research Council Linkage Project

$900,000 over three years




Research partners

Australia Council for the Arts

The Push

Australian Theatre for Young People

Centre for Multicultural Youth

Future Foundations

Back to Back Theatre

Work Advance

Project website

Vital Arts: Home


cultural studies, 21st Century skills, education and training