Training zone

Despite the economic downturn and spending cuts, design and technology CPD courses have enjoyed a steady stream of custom. Emily Pacey explores the recent success of training courses and its implications

The downturn has only strengthened the market for continuing professional development, as designers and consultancies skill up to compete for projects. New training courses are springing up all over the country and online, from digital courses at recruitment agency Become to the Design Business Association’s webinar programme.

So-called ’craft’ skills training a word that seems anachronistic as a descriptor for digital and software skills is beginning to be offered by some unusual providers. Become (formerly Mac People) has just launched a suite of day-long courses, each costing £100 per person, offering training in html, Flash, In Design, Illustrator, Acrobat and Final Cut Pro, among others.

Become’s digital marketing co-ordinator Dan Grech is in charge of organising the candidate-facing courses. ’I’m noticing that many of those signing up are artworkers who might have been in the game for many years and want to add digital to their arsenal of skills,’ he says. Any newly skilled-up freelances will be competing with consultancy staff, however. ’Managers are sending their staff our way, as they twig that it is cheaper to train up a member of their team than to outsource digital work,’ says Grech.

Rhiannon James, director of education and professional development at D&AD, reports that consultancies have started sending multiple team members on training courses in the past few months, rather than just one, indicating an increasing commitment to investing in training. Shan Preddy of Preddy & Co explains this phenomenon with reference to soft skills like presentation, management and new business skills.

’The leading consultancies have learned to be professional and business-like, raising clients’ expectations as the rest of the market is assessed on the performance of the best,’ says Preddy. And if you are not on the bandwagon, you may get crushed beneath the wheels of progress. ’Experience, someone once pointed out, is an effective, but expensive teacher’, says Preddy.

Consultancies have started sending multiple team members on training courses in the past few months, rather than just one

Rhiannon James, D&AD

For many, expense is the hurdle that stops them from signing up to training courses, but in the past 18 months public funding initiatives have sprung up to offer a wealth of training bursaries. We could easily have imagined that the recent spending cuts would have laid waste to these schemes, but, in fact, many appear to have survived. D&AD has retained its bursary scheme from Westminster City Council, and according to Preddy, ’Funding for skills development has managed to survive because the development bodies understand how important it is.’

Training courses are in high demand and, according to providers, are evolving rapidly to accommodate designers’ needs. Hyper Island, the world-renowned Swedish digital college that has just opened up a new school in Manchester, has been highly praised by local consultancy Love Creative for its holistic approach, which is also in evidence on CPD courses at Hyper Island’s London base. Hyper Island London’s Christina Andersson describes how. ’We do things quite differently here. Instead of just teaching people technical skills, students learn through working on live projects, since one of our cornerstones is to develop programmes according to industry need, which means taking a rounded approach that looks at art direction as well as technical skills,’ she says.

Responding to designers’ needs, Preddy describes how the courses ’have been made tighter and shorter’, and she praises the concept of webinars for those too busy to spend more than an hour soaking up new knowledge. Preddy ran the DBA’s first in a series of training webinars. ’Webinars are still not perfect, as it is hard to assess feedback when the participants are just typing in comments, compared with when they are in the room. Also, the technology can just drop out, which is frustrating.’ As conferencing technology improves, however, the Web is likely to become a leading platform for training.

Become, which ran its first course last month, believes that the next step, once it has established itself as a trainer, is to train othersto become trainers. ’There is a market for this, as it offers creative professionals a way of making money on the side,’ says Grech. Become’s plans indicate that CPD may have come a long way recently, but that the market is by no means saturated.

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