Design exercises influence in the Sector Skills Council

It’s great news that the Government is looking to include design in its two-year-old Sector Skills Council initiative. Not only should the exercise partnered and co-funded by the Design Council start to address the untenable situation with regard to the industry’s ‘suppliers’ on the education side, it boosts design’s standing all round.

Getting the right skills in place in education is a big job. Education is traditionally slow to respond to change – partly because its courses offer students at least a three-year promise of what they will be taught – and, with some very notable exceptions, teachers tend to be out of step with commercial practices. Supply is not up to the demand for good graduates in, say, product design and digital media, while in graphics the reverse is true, leaving many graduates unemployed and disillusioned as they enter the real world.

Consultancy bosses and in-house design heads meanwhile need to be constantly updating their skill-sets, even if they are only operating at a local level. Add to this the need for UK design and other creative industries to compete in the future against fast-moving global players identified by the Government, like India and China, among others and you start to grasp the enormity of the task facing the Creative and Cultural Sector Skills Council.

But there is more to the exercise than that for design. The fact that it sits within a mix of creative and cultural industries, from crafts and advertising to the performing, visual and literary arts, is surely for the good. Cross-referencing of experiences and solutions through the Skills Advisory Group should be of mutual benefit. Then there is the collective output from the entire Sector Skills Council network, which should paint a national picture of need and potential remedy across a raft of industry sectors.

What is particularly interesting is the way that participants in the initiative have been convened. Some are nominated by industry bodies – which is a great way to bring cohesion to the notoriously disparate design industry – some will be from consultancies, some from the client side and some from an education background, but most will be employers within design. For once the industry can exercise its influence rather than be subject to policies handed down by the Government and other institutions.

The important word here is influence. It is something UK design is slowly developing in the commercial sector, through tireless efforts to make its case in the boardroom. But by gaining control over its own supply chain it can influence its future as a force for change on the world stage. That can only be good.

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