Investing in the future

We should support students as much as we can, says Glenn Tutssel, because they will provide the future creativity to prevent our consultancies going stale

Do you remember the anxiety, the frustration and excitement of putting your ‘final show’ together? You either coasted or grafted to become one of the elite, the ones who got the best jobs and are on their way to greater things – maybe the D&AD yellow pencil or enough money to buy your first home.

For those who didn’t put much in, don’t expect to get much out. For those with the great portfolios packed with ideas and great creative thinking, the road ahead is assured – or is it?

Many design consultancies offer the graduate placement system. The pay per week varies from £190 to nil. The tasks they are given vary from working on live projects to personal shopping expeditions. Some use the skills of these young gifted stars of the future, others do not.

When I set out on the same road many years ago looking for that job, I was determined that if ever I was in a position to do so, I would help these students on their way. To do so, you have to begin while they are still in college – giving up valuable time to help supplement the energy of the full-time tutors.

Let them know in the second year that it is ideas that count and not just the execution. Let them know that it’s too late in July to start looking for a job. We are one of the better industries at helping graduates – we are also one of the worst. Our enthusiasm sometimes outweighs our intent.

John Mathers, President of the Design Business Association, endorses this view. ‘If we want business to value the work we do for them, as an industry we need to start treating our people in a mature, professional way and that starts with the youngsters coming into our industry,’ he says.

The degree shows are now on and we’re all busy. The CVs, faxes, emails and DVDs are arriving on our desks and we have just enough work to keep our full-time staff employed, so why bother? The answer, of course, is the future of our business, the injection of new blood into our clients’ work, the growth and depth of our companies with new energy, ideas, enthusiasm and youth. So don’t send them out shopping – use an economics student for that!

Placement is a big responsibility and I know it saps up valuable time from your resource, so let’s get a code of conduct here. Pay them enough to live on – don’t expect free labour – so that they can get the very best out of their experience with an established company and we can get the very best out of them. If we plan their placement carefully, we can line up the projects they will be working on and who with, so that they can think about the task ahead of starting and maybe get to know the team.

When they are with you, make sure that their progress is monitored and that you track them through their second and third year – and this could be the lifeline of your company’s creativity. We all know that you can’t expect instant brilliance on day one, but their appetite just to be in a job, earning money to pay off that huge student debt and be mentored by their peers is great motivation.

We owe it, as an industry and as individuals, to give something back. In order to safeguard the future of a now mature industry, we must let our great, talented stars of tomorrow grow through us.

Glenn Tutssel is Executive Creative Director at Enterprise IG

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