Design Council CEO calls for ‘re-imagination’ of education system to ensure design is valued

The CEO of the Design Council John Mathers has called for a re-imagination of the education system in the UK to ensure that design has equal value to other subjects and that academics understand its role in business.

Speaking at the launch of IBM’s London Design Studio last night (19 February) Mathers said that despite the rapid growth of the design sector in the UK, which is growing three times faster than any other sector, there is a “real skills gap” which must be addressed.

“We’ve got the challenge of making sure we’ve got the flow of talent coming through that is actually right for us in the future,” he commented. “We’ve got a real skills gap, not only in terms of numbers, but in terms of the preparedness of students coming though the education system and being fit for purpose when they actually come to the work situation.”

The solution, he said, is not about creating “oven-baked” graduates but arming them with the capabilities needed to understand how design can play a role when they enter the workplace.

“What we’ve got to do is completely reimagine our education system, and [put out] a real call for making sure that design education, arts education and cultural education is valued as much as STEM (Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects.”

Mathers added that design has long been “underplayed and undervalued” and said graduates should be given the confidence to become leaders in businesses, citing designer Christopher Bailey, CEO of Burberry, as an example.

The IBM London Design Studio is the most recent studio to open across the company’s network of global offices, and will address how the rapid adoption of mobile, social, cloud and Big Data is presenting design challenges to software developers and end users alike.