The Creative Industry: A Passion That STEMs From The Heart

According to the Martin Prosperity Institute’s Global Creativity Index 2015, Singapore is the ninth most creative country in the world. Image from Freepik.

BY
TAN YAN HUI

Published on
July 27, 2020

I recently read an article in The Straits Times about how an artist is non-essential during the lockdown period. This set me thinking about what society’s perception of the creative industry is now as compared to a few years ago. Are jobs in the creative industry perceived as less stable than those in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) industry? Or is there more to it than meets the eye?

Why Jobs In The STEM Industry Are Perceived As More Stable

I would like to think that working in the STEM industry comes with the reassurance of receiving a hefty paycheck, putting people’s mind at ease when it comes to supporting their families. However, in a 3M global science perception survey in 2019, when respondents were asked which fields would lead to satisfying careers, only 9 to 18 per cent cited physical science, mathematics, life sciences or engineering. 

There is also a huge disparity in the perceived value one is able to get out of the four STEM sectors, with engineering being of a lower rank in STEM. 

Mr Edwin Khew, president of The Institution of Engineers Singapore, shares the same sentiment. In a Straits Times interview on July 10, 2016, he said that “[many] leave engineering to join these sectors (Business and Finance) after a few years in practice, possibly because of the better pay. A bank may pay them 30 per cent more.” 

[Many] leave engineering to join these sectors (Business and Finance) after a few years in practice, possibly because of the better pay. A bank may pay them 30 per cent more.

- Edwin Khew

President of The Institution of Engineers Singapore

I recently chatted with Roy W.Y. Tan, who graduated from Singapore Polytechnic’s Industrial Engineering course 38 years ago. He mentioned that he joined the engineering profession because he was interested in DIY projects from a young age, like creating his own remote control powerboat model, so it was a clear-cut choice for him. 

Despite his passion for engineering, he shares that he went on to major in Economics at the University of London when he had the chance to further his studies. This allowed him to move higher up the career ladder which paid him more. However, one trade-off was that he had to take on a managerial role as opposed to working hands-on in the field.

When it boils down to money and job satisfaction, I believe there is a distinct line between the two that is often blurred for some people. Money does not always guarantee job satisfaction and vice versa. Being financially independent at an earlier stage in your life is a good thing but you need to be aware of what you might have to sacrifice like time spent with loved ones and job satisfaction.

How Perceptions About The Creative Industry May Not Hold True Anymore

In a 2019 report by Infocomm Media Development Authority, creative-media related roles accounted for 52 per cent of the total demand for media professionals. This shows that there is a growing market for creative jobs, with the number of employed media professionals growing by 12.7 per cent from 2017 to 2018 in the same report. It is not unusual that many Singaporeans think that people who study courses in the creative industry like media and design, would have a hard time finding jobs. However, many also did not expect the huge digitalisation wave with Singapore progressing towards being a Smart Nation. 

Now more than ever, the media industry is booming due to rapid advances in local technology. Media and design-related jobs, which are a huge part of the creative industry, are now quintessential to promoting businesses to consumers especially with the Covid-19 lockdown worldwide. 

With increasing changes to our technological landscape, it is difficult to move forward without design and marketing efforts contributed by the creative industry. It is imperative that creative professionals in Singapore companies are not perceived as less essential than their STEM peers because both are equally important to stimulate our country’s economy.

In 2013, the design sector contributed S$2.13 billion to Singapore’s GDP and employed 30,000 people. When asked about this statistic, Ch’ng Ning, 19, a final-year Communication Design student from Temasek Polytechnic, felt hopeful that Singaporean’s negative perception of the overall creative industry will change. 

She said that this pandemic is definitely a turning point for people to change their perceptions. People who had misconceptions about creatives will be curious as to how this industry that they have perceived previously to be so insignificant, can suddenly be worth so much and is still growing exponentially in our current economy. She adds that design has a huge impact on Singapore which shows that the creative industry is thriving and becoming more important as technology advances.

Making The Right Choice For Yourself

As a creative individual myself, I possibly could foresee taking up a job in the STEM industry if I had listened to my parents about choosing a particular career path and how anything creative just wasn’t going to cut it. But after talking with professionals from vastly different industries, each career has its boons and banes. According to Academia.sg, most jobs in STEM fields are non-STEM, from sales and marketing, to people and product management. These different industries should not be seen as two different entities. Instead, they have to become more integrated because one cannot do without the other.

Although I believe the creative industry might be a better route for people who perform better in their humanities, it is a fact that the creative industry still needs professionals from the STEM industry to follow through on the more technical aspect, for example, the engineering software and phone specifications of a smartphone. Instead of drawing a clear line between what is considered a creative job or a STEM job, every job should be on the same playing field as they are all more closely connected than you think.

Initial article which inspired this article and provides some insight into Singaporeans’ perception of the current job industry. Image from The Straits Times.

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