Monday, 22 August 2011

Behind the scenes at SCA2....

The class of 2010/11.

Hello gang. Apologies for the radio silence in the last few weeks; I've been on hols and busy with a spot of work.

Anyway, this post is a guest one from Samantha Jenkins, a recently graduated student from the School of Communication Arts 2.0.

I will let her explain more, but suffice to say, the School is after a 2011 intake. If you like the sound of a creative career, you should definitely read on.

Anyway. Here's Sam:

"Some people believe in luck, fate, a big-break, chance, destiny and fortune.

It’s where you’ve come from, who you know, your lot in life.

Others trust in sheer determined hard work and tireless perseverance.

Ball-breaking, back-aching commitment.

Some people regard phenomenal genius, which needs neither rabbit’s feet nor elbow grease, enough to propel one’s vision into a world of desperate anticipation and quivering awe.

One thing’s for certain. All people have hope.

Hope that one day lady luck will whisper sweet nothings, promising everything.

Hope that sweat and tears will turn to rain, drenching the drought of dreams fulfilled.

Hope that raw talent will be plucked whilst ripe and bursting with vitality.

Hope that after studying for years to earn the perceived right into the Promised Land of employment, one does not end up circling in and out of the spiraling, rotary doors of the dole office.

After quitting my A-Levels in the hope that I did not need them, I discovered I was right after securing a place at university.

After quitting degree course, after degree course in the hope that I did not need them, I discovered I was right after securing a place in the dole queue, even after eventually obtaining the highly desired graduation photo.

Something had gone pretty wrong – or had it?

Degree in hand, I was meant to get a job; and I did.

Bartender. Quit. Retail Assistant. Quit. Telesales Operative. Quit. Receptionist. Quit. Tour Guide. Quit. Bungy-jump Coordinator. Quit. Gallery Assistant. Quit. Online Marketing Assistant. Quit.

All of the above merely a small handful of the job opportunities given to me as an Applied Arts graduate, hopping from country to country trying to discover who on earth I was; what, for heaven’s sake, I wanted to do with myself; but more importantly, how the hell was I to get there.

The church was my saviour.

The house of worshipping creative freedom that is The School of Communication Arts 2.0 happens to exist within a Methodist church in Vauxhall, South London.

Having now completed study at SCA 2.0, I now realise that the Job Centre was the best possible place for me as I walked through its doors little over a year ago. It was here, at what should have been the lowest point of my career’s journey - signing on to my weekly giro - when I signed out of my old way of thinking.

A state of mind that had crippled me by a rigid set of rules which led me nowhere; the same brain washed mind-set that leaves young creative people unemployed or in jobs that they despise all over the country - the belief that spending 3 years within the UK creative education system will result in a career.

A-Levels and degrees are not needed to become a creative.

Once realising my degree meant jack shit, I just started to do stuff I wanted to do.

It was this stuff that got me noticed and this stuff that started my journey of luck, fate, hard graft, perseverance and self-belief that has, in just a year, earned me a work placement in the Amsterdam based creative agency, Strawberry Frog.

Stuff. Looking at stuff. Being interested in stuff. Caring about stuff. Finding stuff. Sharing stuff. Creating stuff. Being stuff.


How can these ideas bring value to a brand and therefore bring value to an agency?

The SCA accepts students because they are creative and then shows them how to translate their ideas into a format that agencies will want to hire. Have a look at some of the work here.

The people that work within these agencies have written the entire curriculum that is available for anyone to view. Here, take a look.

This curriculum is taught to students by the very minds that wrote it – the industry itself.

The school only has a handful of employed staff. Creative professionals visit the school everyday, delivering the curriculum, giving talks and workshops, imparting tips and advice, helping develop ideas, critiquing work, offering mentorship and friendship.

Additionally, the networking opportunities offered at SCA are unrivaled. With over 400 mentors and only 30 students, there is plenty of time and attention spent on the needs of every individual.

Students get to work on live briefs for real clients, getting to see their work become a reality before even stepping foot inside an agency.

And step foot they shall as the course offers every student guaranteed 6 month work placements in some of the top advertising agencies.

The SCA 2.0 changed my life.

To all of you who’ve just received your A-Level results…

Pass or fail – YOU DON”T NEED THEM!"

I hope that was helpful to anyone considering a creative career. Good luck with your applications, guys.


Anonymous said...

What are you supposed to do if you don't have rich parents? A career as an ad creative is something to forget, I presume?

Tom Houser said...

Loving the positive thinking from anonymous there, am sure that mindset will get you FAR.

Great post sam, and thanks adgrads for putting it up.

On paper it looks expensive, but the time I've spent at the school so far has provided me with priceless opportunities (and unlike sam I'm not finished yet)

It's hard, but you make it work (I've been living on a sofa since January)

Anonymous said...

The opportunities are surely worth the price. I don't dispute that. But the fact is they cost thousands of pounds that some people don't have.

What if you don't have a sofa to stay on? What if you don't have the money for the fees? What if you don't have the money to live in the meantime?

It's not a question of your mindset getting you far mate. It's not a question of positive thinking. It's your parents money.

Some of us need to work for a living and don't have a free place to stay, not even a sofa.

It's hard for you, but you make it work. For others, it's impossible. You can't magic thousands and thousands of pounds out of thin air, no matter how positive your attitude.

It's insulting to myself and the thousands of others in my position that you refuse to acknowledge that and say I'm not "thinking positively enough"

AlexandJon said...

Anonymous, I have been working every weekend and full time every holiday for 6 months as has my art director. We are both at the school in Tom's year. If you're good and show a slightly more positive attitude there are scholarships to be had. Good luck.

Will said...

Hi Anon.

A valid point, in terms of cash - I myself had to work back at home for a year to get the cash to come to London and get work experience/stay in a youth hostel. I'm not from the South East. It *was* hard, I can't lie.

Getting into communications (whether that's at SCA2, doing work experience or otherwise) IS costly. I wouldn't claim otherwise. SCA2 does offer scholarships, and most work experience is now paid, so it's getting better.

Another way to get around the cost could be to look at the IPA Summer School. That is a paid, 6 week placement in either creative, planning or account management. Things are getting better, but it is still difficult, there's no getting away from that.

Good luck though, Anon. I hope you can get in.

HilmiR said...

Amazing post Sam.

I suppose it all falls down to how much you really want it to happen. When there's a will, there's a way.


+1 said...

Hi Anonymous

My names Daniel, I am a student studying at SCA 2.0, I am not going to say that it is easy to study at SCA without rich parents but to say we all are blessed with money is a very ignorant attitude and an insult to me personally.

I work full time during the holidays and average 26 hours bar work whilst studying at SCA. This just about helps me to scrape my fees and Rent together, it is not easy, but neither is getting into one of the most competitive industries in the world. If you want this as much as Tom, Alex, John or me you will find a way. (That way may not be SCA but you are going to have to push yourself and make sacrifices).

Don't create more barriers for yourself, If the SCA intake was just down to how much money you have SCA Would be a very dull pompous place, but its not, its exciting melting pot of oddballs, eccentrics and talented people that want to push advertising to its limits.

Tom Houser said...

Anonymous - I stand by what I said.

Most at SCA have had to make sacrifices to do the course, its far harder than all the jobs I have ever done put together (and after graduating from my useless degree I had to 'work for a living' for a couple of years, I wish my parents/magic powers could pay for this course.)

The one major thing SCA has taught me is that you make your own luck through sheer bloody mindedness and hard work. Also that advertising attracts some of the smartest people in the world, so if you want in, then you are going to have to prove you can better them.

One of the great things about advertising though is that there are people who are both smart AND helpful who you get to meet, like Will from Adgrads. They will often go above and beyond to help you achieve your ambitions.

My initial reply was a bit harsh, for that I apologise. But it is just true, if you want something you have to make it happen.

P.S. Average debt on graduation for students who start at university this year will be approx £26,100.

I'm no mathematician (I studied sculpture) but for me £9750 for a year of 9-5 mon-fri working and learning seems pretty good value.

And no, that doesn't include living costs (FYI I pay to live on my sofa.) But if you were to get one of the scholarships (of which there are a fair few, both means and merit based) then it becomes an even better opportunity.

Good luck to you - and if you are interested then come visit us at the school when we start again in September.

Greg said...

I just wanted to chime in here and say that an expensive £10k american style portfolio school like SCA2 is a bad idea.

I think the sacrifices that you kids are making to attend is laudable, but I fear you may be the exception rather than the rule. I think most students are supported financially by their parents in one way or another.

It's no surprise that the minority who are paying their own way are vocal. Gentlemen, you have my respect and I'll be looking out for you.

However, SCA2 is full of people who can somehow part with £10,000. I'm much older than you all (I'd imagine) and I'm telling you that our Anonymous friend is correct when he says not everyone can do this. Even those of you above who are making all manner of admirable sacrifices for your dreams are in a fortunate position to be able to do so.

SCA2, and similar programs, makes social mobility more difficult. Luckily, it's far from the only way into advertising, otherwise it would be a very homogenous industry.

Anonymous, and others like you, my message is this: SCA2 are very fond of talking about how you don't need A-Levels, you don't need a degree. They conveniently forget to mention that you don't need to go to SCA2 either. If you don't have the cash easily available and you're contemplating a year of beans on toast and sleeping on a couch, I suggest you don't.

Do it the old fashioned way, like I did. Get a job doing something else, put some money away while you make a book with a partner, go to crits, improve it, get placements, get a job. You're going to have to do this bit anyway, whether you go to SCA2 or not. It's a hard path, but if you're any good then you'll be able to do it.

Of course, the SCA2 is a fine establishment in the sense that the curriculum and learning experience is first rate. There can be no doubt about that. It's the way that it is funded that I have a problem with.

It should be funded partly by the industry, and partly by the government. Entry should be by merit only. Then we'd really see some stars coming out of it. Under those circumstances, only those who are truly outstanding would be given a place.

Remember, almost none of the big names on the scene today went to college to study advertising. Would they have been able to pay the £10k to go to SCA2? Maybe not. But it doesn't matter. They succeeded without it, and so can you.

Samantha Jenkins said...

Hi Anon & Greg,

I'm the woman (not gentlemen) that wrote the article and at 25, not much of a kid either.

The SCA is sponsored by the advertising industry, investing so that students can receive scholarship places at the school.

Last year 5 out of 20 students were on a full scholarship and 4 others received school funds assisted places. The target for the school is to have 50% of its students receive full scholarship offers, however this is going to take longer than first thought due to insufficient sponsorship funds raised.

SCA gave out more scholarship value than sponsorship raised last year (and this year), as well as receiving all of the it’s Dean’s public speaking fees amounting to 40K last year. It strongly believes that only those that are truly outstanding should get a place.

I agree Greg, that there is an issue with the way that the school is funded – there should be a much more support from the creative industries to ensure that this target is met sooner rather than later.

To suggest that the government should partially fund the school does not make sense considering that university course fees are rising due to the transference of cost from state to student.

According to a BBC article this ‘will mean that many courses, particularly in arts and humanities, will almost entirely depend on income from students' fees.’

So, there seems to be less difference than first thought between the funding of SCA and university, apart from the way in which that cash is being spent - one costing 10K for one year of teaching from 100’s of prolific industry professionals and a guaranteed 6 month placement OR 27K for 3 years tuition from a handful of largely speaking, out of touch industry has-beens, only to be spat out into the world of non-work along with 1000’s of other post-degree hopefuls heading up the same crud creek with identical portfolio paddles.

Many young people have no clue about the advertising industry or how to get into it, myself once included and with parents that also had no clue, no money and no connections, I listened to the mantra of a teaching system that sounded so ultimately different from every other course that had promised me the world and gave me increasing debts and no job to pay them off.

Surely, the less money you have, the more quickly you want to achieve paid employment and the very fact that you are reading this blog shows that you want to do it in a career that you love and not job roles similar to the ones described on offer to me, arts degree in hand with no industry connections and no real notion of how the creative beast preens it’s nest with unpaid placements and voluntary internships.

Samantha Jenkins said...

After realising that my degree was not going to get me the job that I wanted, I changed tact and started to do things that I thought I’d never been “qualified” or “experienced” enough to do before. Much in the same way as Greg is suggesting – just do it.

It is this mind-set described in my article and this change of self-perception that led to an awarded D&AD scholarship to study at the school. This was not in any way connected with my uni course. However, awarded through the connection I had with D&AD from an all female, live-graffiti collective I had started when on the dole looking for work.

I consider the past 10 years of my life as the contribution that earned me the scholarship place; leaving school, working in dead end jobs, a foundation year, 3 years of university, traveling from one country to the next working in yet more dead end jobs, following dreams, igniting passions, life experience, growing up – yes, accumulating considerable debts, but never, ever letting go of the certainty that I was worth more.

The reality is that some people are rich and can afford stuff and other people are poor and cannot afford stuff.

Maybe the rich ones can afford to walk straight onto a course and maybe the poor ones have to go through a 10 year journey to get there. But, they get there if they believe in themselves.

I wrote this article to highlight the fact that you do not need A-Levels and you do not need a degree to achieve a creative career at a time when many young people across the UK believe that the only answer to their exam woes is a UCAS supported one.

And yes, Greg, I completely agree that you also, do not need SCA to get a career in advertising, but it a bloody good alternative to university.

I wrote this article in strong opposition to the stagnation of social mobility, having lived in a pretty stationary mobile home for many years of my childhood due to lack of parental funds, as well as the distain for homogenous industries that have been packed full of wealthy, white, men for many years.

I just wanted to raise awareness of a school that has changed my life and I wanted to make sure it continues to help the new generation of creative thinkers; rich, poor, male, female, black, white, crazy or sane, to reach their potential and not end up in a job that they hate.