Games tax breaks should help employ young aspiring devs, says UK minister

Ed Vaizey wants British studios to hire new talent

Britain's games tax relief system should be used to help employ young aspiring developers and students, according to Tory culture minister Ed Vaizey.

On Tuesday, the UK formally ushered in a new state aid system that allows home grown studios to apply for games tax breaks. At their most effective, these measures can lower project production costs by 25 per cent.

Vaizey: "I would love to see some real, domestic, home-grown growth"

Now Vaizey believes this industry-wide benefit can help find space in budgets to help hire young developers.

"I want to see some real ambition from some of our home-grown games companies that want to grow and not necessarily be bought immediately by an American company when they get successful," Vaizey told MCV.

He added: "I would love to see some real, domestic, home-grown growth that expands overseas. I want to see elements of - which I think there already is but even more -engagement with young people in terms of skills".

Across the UK, more than 900,000 young people aged 16-24 were unemployed in the three months covering November to January, according to official statistics.

Though that figure represents a small year-on-year decrease, the coalition government has presided over a youth unemployment rate that has peaked to twenty-year highs.

About a fifth of "economically active" young people in the UK are unemployed, and about a third of that proportion have been out of work for more than a year.

Yet other official statistics suggest that unemployment across east London is shrinking particularly fast due to tech start-ups and related jobs across the region.

There are currently about 2,500 games development students in the UK

Vaizey believes the games industry can offer students direction.

"The industry itself is a great poster industry for science and computer science and the kind of hard skills that [education minister] Michael Gove is so keen about," he said.

"So it would be great to see as many games companies as possible, when they're not busy working, engaging with young people and showing how studying science at school gets you a pretty great job in the end."

Industry practice

Meanwhile, a new education initiative in the UK has been created with the aim to give games development students more practical hands-on experience.

The Business and University Games Syndicate (Bugs), co-founded by Sensible Soccer developer Jon Hare, has been founded with the purpose of "making students more industry-facing".

In an interview with The Guardian, Hare says only a tenth of games students are "actually employable" by the time they graduate, with another 10 to 15 per cent needing a little more guidance.

Bugs, he says, is a line of practical games development courses that will help that second row of students become more employable.

Ten universities have signed up to the initiative, Hare said, though the scheme requires additional external funding to operate.

"I hope, at some point, that one of these bodies, whether it be Nesta, Ukie, Tiga, Bafta or the government itself, will see that what we're doing is a good thing, and that the push will come - hopefully from the government - to free some money up to support what we're doing," he said.