I believe this question of "How do we know in advance what skills will be needed in the future, since we can’t know the future?" extends way back the the start of Education. Every tier of the education system currently I'm place today is based and built upon the one below. Even though the step between high school and university is considered a large, its never so big that any person cant handle if the work hard.
The problem lies with the education system itself. Every year it goes through reforms and changes that might slowly make things better or worse, mostly depending on luck. But it never evolves into what it should be for the current and coming generations. So what I mean is, pretty much nothing I was offered as teaching in school, prepared me for the path I eventually through my own decisions. Usually kids like me who liked art, were told that they should find an academic subject they can do because they wont find a job in art, or if they try it will be very difficult and not much money. That's a really bad misconception and one teachers shouldn't put across to their students.
Imagine if creative arts had as much funding and focus early on in the education system as other subjects like science and math. what kind of first years would we be seeing in interviews on this course if the core fundamentals were passionately taught to budding art students all the way back to when they can first begin to understand it, which is early on...
I watched a brilliant Ted Talk recently when researching this, by Sir Ken Robinson on the subject of the education system and its structure, background, why its here and why we need to get rid of it for something newer and better. he's a brilliant speaker but more importantly he raising some inspiring points. If you haven't seen it then I cant recommend it enough.
This next one is a slightly broader and lengthier talk, brilliantly paired with some artistic flare. Again worth checking it out, if not for the talk then just for the brilliant drawing. But it is relevant.
If that was the case and Creative arts were valued and encouraged early on, Game art tutors wouldn't need to worry about covering the fundamentals and could focus on training software knowledge and a level of adaptability that prepares them for the future. Most Importantly I think the courses should be dynamic and always able to change quickly so they stay current.
But with the education system stuck how it is for now, how do game educators train and bring out the best in their art students to prepare for the future of the games industry, when we don't know what the future of that industry will be?
Well I know that this course doesn't teach Animation, but the same question applies to those courses, or really any media arts courses.
A lot of schools take a very software-heavy approach to their teaching but with technology changing so fast and hardware/software growing by leaps and bounds, it can be really hard to teach something current and expect it to still be relevant 3 or 4 years later. So as we know that you as a art tutor only have 3 years to skill those students, how best use that time? I think learning the software is important, but mastery over shouldn't be the main focus.
Enough time should be given early on for the students to develop their fundamentals. As Chris always says, "They are the foundation on which all other skills will stand" That translates into technology, and its proven all too often when I see people I know pick up Zbrush or 3ds max even and they try to model a simple shape, but cant quite get it right. its that basic lacking of understanding that's holding them back and making it so much harder for them.
I think that you could give a great traditional artist, who has some technology know how a new creative program to master like Zbrush, and regardless of how little he or she may know about the software, it will take them only a matter of days to get to grips with it.
However, if you take someone who has never really practiced their traditional skills and learned their fundamentals, then try to give them the same program. No matter how hard the try, they will never be as competent as the first artist.
This Feng Zhu talking about the importance of fundamentals, and he draws a line between two ways of studying.