Warning of a skills shortage in packaging design

THE managing director of a packaging design company has spoken out about his fears of a skills shortage in the sector.

Stephen Shortland of New Vision Packaging believes many of the current design courses offered by universities are actually watering down talent. Many students’ understanding of the design process – often excellent – lacks a proper grounding in reality. Commercial awareness is often very poor, a factor he attributes to a tendency among students to opt out of what was once a customary part of their education, a year in industry.
He also blames programmes like Dragon’s Den for their glib portrayal of the business world, which do little to show the grit and determination that’s needed to succeed in what is a very tough trading environment.
If the situation isn’t addressed then we might continue to see more and more design work being outsourced to other countries for cost reasons.

Dispensing advice to designers
“More effort needs to be made for the next generation of UK designers to regain their edge,” he said. Shortland added that he spends time visiting colleges to speak to students about the realities of the business world and believes more business owners should do the same.
“There certainly needs to be more of a connection between business and education.” Furthermore, inward investment is needed to support partnerships to nurture new talent. “It’s a winning situation for all involved really, as the universities and colleges are seen to offer their students more and, at the end of it, businesses benefit from being able to employ graduates with real commercial sense.”

Missing acumen
Samuel Mitchell, research manager at Creative & Cultural Skills, agrees: “Research by the Design Commission indicates a large proportion of design employers feel there is little to differentiate design graduates. In particular they felt that a lack of business skills, commercial acumen and industry awareness were consistent themes that were not being taught properly to undergraduate design students.”
“A Creative and Cultural Skills Workforce Survey, carried out in 2009, showed that 19% of design businesses had faced difficulty recruiting new staff. Applicants particularly lacked experience, often related to business or commercial skills in design, along with a general lack of specialist skills.”
New Vision Packaging’s client portfolio features some of the UK’s biggest brands and retailers, including Thorntons, Waitrose, Cadbury World and celebrity hairdresser Lee Stafford. For more information on New Vision Packaging and its full service offering, visit www.newvisionpackaging.co.uk.