GARNER and DUCKWORTH, 1999. Identifying key competences of industrial design and technology graduates in small and medium-sized enterprises. IDATER conference 1999, Loughborough University.
Industrial design graduates can be true ‘agents of change’ in manufacturing industry and
nowhere is this potential more valuable than in Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs)
where flexibility and speed of response are essential and which make up 94% of the UK economy.
However, little research exists which examines the people - the initiators of change - in the light
of emerging needs of SMEs in the UK. There is a huge potential amongst the SME sector to
capitalise on industrial design graduates but for a number of reasons their skills and values
are not fully exploited. With a growing higher education (HE) sector in design and related
studies and a growing industrial base of SMEs there is an important need for research which
would (i) help industrial design graduates secure employment in this significant element of
the UK economy; (ii) assist HE with curricula development relevant to the needs of SMEs and
(iii) help SMEs to harness the skills of industrial design graduates.
This nine month project, which began in January 1999, seeks to address these points via a
study of industrial design graduates employed by SMEs. 12 SMEs have been identified and
each has employed, for a minimum of two years, a graduate from the Industrial Design and
Technology BA/BSc programme offered by the Department of Design and Technology at
Loughborough University. Particularly important to the research is the existence, manifestation
and exploitation of 'competences'.