Learn animation and special effects in the Canary Islands with ‘Star Wars’ and ‘The House of the Dragon’
“There is no better way to learn than with the day to day of a company.” The speaker is Ignacio Caicoya, from Oviedo, who was part of a team that won two Oscars —for interstellar (2014) and Ex Machina (2015). Three years ago he founded the special effects company Iro Pictures from Tenerife with a partner who, from the island, has already worked on projects such as the house of the dragon (HBO Max), Bobba Fett’s bookof the universe Star Wars (Disney+) or Vampire Academy. Iro is one of the studios that have been involved in a Dual Vocational Training project for 3D animation and video games. “The school teaches too much theory, and the students don’t learn how to work in animation companies,” says Darío Sánchez, a man from Madrid who six years ago decided to take advantage of the tax advantages offered by the Canary Islands Special Zone and founded in Santa Cruz de Tenerife the animation production company 3 Doubles Producciones. “My goal is to work in an animation company, in this one it can be,” says Mario Sierra, 23, one of the 20 students in the Dual Vocational Training program at the César Manrique Integrated Vocational Training Center, in the Tenerife capital. “I want to stay in the Canary Islands”.
The Government approved in December 2021 the new Vocational Training law, which aspires to modernize an educational branch that, despite being the one with the highest growth in number of students in recent years, only attracts 12% of the student body, is that is, less than half the OECD average. One of the keys of the law is that it promotes Dual Vocational Training, a modality that has given good results but that has been limited up to now to a small number of centers and that the new regulation wants to generalize, so that from the 2024 academic year /2025 students complete a large part of their training in companies. The law establishes two types of regime: in general, students will spend between 25% and 35% of the hours that their studies last in companies. And in the intensive regime they will carry out at least 35% of them.
The César Manrique Institute has been running a vocational training program on the subject for six years now, two of them in a dual format, with 20 students starting each year and 46 finishing. “We are the only public institute in the province to offer specialized training in the creation of video games and 3D animation”, assures the center. Behind this program is Eliseo Martín Mora, a programmer specializing in video game development who has turned teaching for four years. “At first it was very strange,” he recalls. “But we insist, we try to be flexible to accommodate what the companies demand. Over time, they see that the boys work. In the end, students do not leave the job market so green, but more prepared”.
This educational center —and the Felo Monzón institute in Gran Canaria, which also has the program— has benefited from the growth of these islands as a receiving pole for technology companies thanks to the Canary Islands Special Zone (ZEC), a low-tax zone ( 4%, compared to 25% in the rest of Spain). This industry practically did not exist in 2016, and currently there are 56 animation and audiovisual production companies based on the islands, which directly employ 800 people. In the video game segment, the archipelago is home to 40 companies, which have created 200 jobs, according to the organization’s data. “The convenience of getting together with the ZEC arose, because they are the ones who get companies to establish themselves here,” says Martín Mora.
In addition to Iro Pictures and 3 Doubles, the other companies that work with the Tenerife educational center are the Drakhar video game studio (creators of Transylvania hotel either the paw patrol) and the production company B-Water, a firm with 90 employees owned by the German animator Dirk Hampel, who in 2018 decided to move to the Canary Islands. “We came for the incentives, but we ended up staying because of the quality of life and the amount of local talent,” explains the company’s CEO, Colombian Angélica García. ”The students who come here experience a real product”, he emphasizes, stressing that the relationship with César Manrique “is key: we try to discuss with them where the boys are weakest and we try to achieve more flexibility in the teachers, so that they Realize that the study plans can ask for one thing, but the company asks for another”.
Eliseo Martín Mora admits that rigidities must be corrected. “We are adapting it to the needs, yes. We even already prepare teachers’ schedules to ensure that students spend as much time as possible in the workplace”. This allows students to access this market. This is confirmed by Álvaro Alonso and José María Frías, first-year students aged 23 and 19, respectively. “In the Canary Islands there are only two public places where I could take this course, and if not, at a private school…”.
The Government of the Canary Islands assures that Dual Vocational Training constitutes one of the great educational commitments in a region with 14.5% unemployment, and one of the highest rates of youth unemployment in the country. “We have been doing training for tutors, for coordinators, for everyone for some time now,” says the general director of Vocational Training and Adult Education of the Government of the Canary Islands, Rosario Gañán. “We are preparing to remove our fear of the new, and this year we have already increased the groups by 76%, of 20 students each.” Gañán cites among the advances of the Executive the creation of the first —and only to date— regional strategy of FP Dual together with the social agents, the business federations and the two main unions; or the figure of the prospector, (“the only ones in Spain”, she asserts), who are given training and assigned teaching hours to carry out the search for companies. “We have given 2.3 million in scholarships in dual”, concludes the general director, “and this year for the first time they gave grants to companies”.
The production company B-Water is the one that has been working with the César Manrique Institute for the longest time and the one that has helped train the most students. “Every time they end up more prepared, more professionals, so that they can dedicate themselves to this without leaving their islands,” says García. And he predicts: “One of the students stays safe. It may be that everyone, but that will be seen…”.
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