In the UK, 76% of employers tended to employ only graduates, and 58% expressed dissatisfaction with the skills of those graduates, according to a recent study by UK-based organization, Creative & Cultural Skills. Together with the Design Council, the organization is working to build a stronger, more useful design apprenticeship structure to serve as alternative route to the university pathway for 19-21 year olds.
“Despite design apprenticeships being offered by a handful of colleges around the country [UK], they are far from well-known in the industry,” said Andrew Davidson, the Design Council’s Academy program manager. “Now is the perfect time to look again at entry routes into the design industry and the role that apprenticeships are playing.”
National Apprenticeship Week shares tips for gradutes looking to start an apprenticeship
As a part of National Apprenticeship Week, the Design Council held its first Design Apprenticeship Summit, where educators, students, employers and designers explored how design apprenticeships can be improved upon and expanded. The effort was motivated by data suggesting that hiring is very low in the design industry compared to other professions.
"It's a concern that there are only about 100 design apprentices, yet there are over 6000 apprentices working in construction," said John Mathers, chief executive of the Design Council. "It shows there's work to be done and this event is starting off that discussion. With university fees increasing to an average of £60K, we want apprenticeships to be fit-for-purpose to bring growth and diversity to the design industry."
The Center for Economics and Business Research study found that overall, apprenticeships are on the rise, and 3.8 million people will complete apprenticeships over the next ten years with a projected contribution of £3.4 billion to the UK economy each year until 2022.
Evidence also suggests that few employers in the design sector are aware of the existence of the design apprenticeship. Those who are aware of it often don’t see it as fit-for-purpose, the main criticism being that it is too generic and not specific enough to different design disciplines.
Designer Wayne Hemingway MBE, who himself employs design apprentices, and Ian Ashman, principal of Hackney Community College, were both on site at the summit and discussed the benefits of hiring apprentices and how the industry will reap the benefits.
The Design Council agreed that this is just the beginning of a long conversation, but their aim is to improve growth and productivity in the design industry as well as prospects for young people who want to learn on-the-job in an industry that has historically offered few entry-level jobs—and change that.
To learn more about the initiative, designers are encouraged to follow @designcouncil on Twitter and use the hash tag #NAW2014 to continue the conversation.