Graduates are a product of today’s design education

We’re directors of a small product design consultancy and this morning opened five speculative applications for work placements from students. They are now on the pile with the other 150-plus we have received so far this year.

Under this pile is another 150 plus unsolicited applications, mainly from recent graduates. In this period one vacancy arose, needless to say, filling it wasn’t too tricky. We take placement students most of the time and regularly interview people informally.

With fees to pay and no grants, most of them graduate in a lot of debt – is it worth it? There are excellent courses out there and excellent students, but the sheer numbers make it difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff.

The problem for the industry is compounded by universities that award good degrees to students who would never have gained the same grade at colleges with higher standards. How many product design graduates from some institutions are finding work remotely relevant to their education?

Getting work in design was always very competitive, we’re just grateful we finished college before the recent massive expansion in higher education. There are transferable skills that a design education imparts, but are these skills worth the cost and time? For many students we doubt it.

Surely it’s time for a massive shake up in product design education. Many young people are not getting the education, opportunities and career they have payed for. There are immense practical and political difficulties, but it’s time for some politicians and educational institutions to adopt higher moral standards. Stop offering ‘vocational’ courses with poor employment prospects and stop the bullshit about what is a job for a graduate. I’ve seen one university proudly advertising a 90 per cent success rate in graduate employment. Yeah, and how many are flipping burgers?

It’s time to adopt higher entrance standards, kids who can’t draw and have little natural creativity won’t make it as designers. In short, stop ripping young people off and wasting the industry’s time.

Alistair Williamson and Andrew Hodgin

Directors

Blueprint Product Design

design@productdesignworld.com

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