Are apprenticeships a better way of honing business skills?

As students prepare for their final shows, the thoughts of many a creative director turn to snapping up the best new talent.

A glance at the best work going through the colleges this year suggests they won’t be disappointed if they are looking for young designers who can meet a brief and spot opportunities to extend it. D&AD Student Award contenders, responding to briefs set by real clients, demonstrate this knack.

Indeed, colleges are making more effort to honour the needs of would-be employers and student shows are responding. For example, Free Range, scheduled to run at London’s Old Truman Brewery for two months from 2 June, will be divided into two-week chunks, each dedicated to a particular sector of design to make it easier for visitors.

The result of all this is a talent pool that is more commercially astute and young designers not too shy to put themselves forward to employers or the media. This is good news, but some creative directors maintain that the ‘time to dream’ vital to a college education is getting lost in colleges’ modular approach to courses.

They reckon an apprenticeship system might be better, with consultancies taking on graduates in a structured way to give them business experience. Another option might be to identify industry mentors, to inspire students beyond the need to fulfil course modules.

Elements of these ideas already exist. Take the Enterprise IG placement scheme set up to foster young talent for the group (DW 24 March). But a coherent cross-industry system could work.

But which body should administer it? The Design Business Association is more concerned with commerce than colleges, being design’s trade body. So maybe it should be D&AD, given its education track record. However, its interests are split between advertising and design.

But how about the Chartered Society of Designers? It might be better served in bolstering the creative future of the business than in dabbling in business issues already handled by the DBA that logically reside there.

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