Design Industry Urged to Rethink Design Apprenticeships

Design Industry Urged to Rethink Design Apprenticeships

Design Council and Creative & Cultural Skills have launched a project that will see the design industry and education providers come together to create an action plan to improve design apprenticeships.

As part of National Apprenticeship Week, Design Council held their first Design Apprenticeship Summit. Educators, students, employers and designers explored how design apprenticeships can be improved, as figures suggest that take up is very low compared to other sectors.

The Centre 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. However, the existing design apprenticeship framework suffers from relatively low take-up, with only a handful of colleges around the country offering them.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that few employers are aware of the existence of the design apprenticeship framework. Those who are aware of it often do not see it as fit for purpose, the main criticism being that it is too generic and not specific enough to different design disciplines.

"Pathways to Design," a recent study of entry routes into the design industry by Creative & Cultural Skills found that, whilst 76% of employers tended to employ only graduates, 58% expressed dissatisfaction with the skills of those graduates. The report recommended formalising an alternative route to the university pathway for 19-21 year olds.

Design Council and Creative & Cultural Skills are looking to the Department of Business Innovations and Skills and its agencies to work with them to review the design apprenticeship framework and to work towards a better solution for the sector as a whole. The 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.

"It's a concern that there are only about 100 design apprentices, yet there are over 6000 apprentices working in construction," commented John Mathers, Chief Executive of 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."