Thursday, 21 July 2011

recent grads.

If you haven't been around Twitter today, you'll have missed fashion156 sparking a debate into graduates and job opportunities.

They tweeted:
"Open question to graduates. Do you feel equipped to secure the kind of job in the industry you desire. If not what are your concerns?"
...which led to a post on the fashion156 blog.

Of course, this is a debate which concerns me on every level. I emailed f156 my view on education in fashion (too much for a tweet)...
"I've just graduated from Northumbria University's fashion course. I obviously can't speak for other courses but Northumbria does focus a lot on portfolio and links with industry (we have year in industry as part of the course and a placement officer who deals only with finding student placements and advertising graduate jobs.) We (generally) have quite a good rate of employment, which I think is down to experience. I've been applying for lots of jobs in the past few weeks and even entry level positions want people with experience. If you haven't come from a course with a placement scheme of some sort, you might struggle to find paid work in the industry. I chose to travel after doing 5 months with a supply company and now I'm looking into doing another unpaid placement so I have a full years experience at different places.

From seeing other unis work at Graduate Fashion Week, it seems as though lots of courses focus on a high-end market (and final collections - lots of those shown were very 'catwalk', which might be impressive but isn't what buyers/employers are looking for in order to sell!) and don't focus on portfolio skills etc as much as we do - many of the other unis didn't have full portfolios out or took up much more of the stand with garments, and I think this is a huge mistake as most graduates aren't going to find paid work in the high-end and would likely struggle to start their own business too. "
(Slightly edited...)

...but since seeing some more responses I've got more to add.

Over four years on the course I've heard a lot of my coursemates complain about our course for various reasons, but we seem to have it really good -
Co-operative Designs tweeted the following to f156:
"damn straight. Most knitwear students dont even get taught how to knit a jumper. shocking!"
...and was instantly incredibly thankful for everything my course has taught me. We weren't at all taught about digital communication (another thing f156 mentioned) - but on a design course (rather than marketing/communication), I'm not surprised about that.But we are taught how to pattern cut, and sew, and use Adobe programs to professional standard. The print students know how to screen print, and the knitwear students know how to knit (even those who only take knitwear option in fourth year), and our final collections are made by us ourselves (with help from the technicians, but 99% of collections are made in the studio on campus) - which I know isn't the case for all unis.
I think people in the industry know this about Northumbria and that puts me in a good position, but even so, people want to know you have the experience.

I think the reality is, you need education AND experience in order to get anywhere. For the majority of jobs I've applied for, they look at your CV and covering letter and that's it. No work examples - no portfolio, no collection, no anything. You have to impress in text.

This might all be terrible news for new graduates, for people already enrolled on fashion courses, or for people starting a fashion course in September, but hopefully it's better to know the reality of the situation - and what you can do about it - now.


I hope this doesn't sound really Northumbria-biased, but obviously, I don't know about other unis enough to talk about them. Fellow Northumbrians (on any design course), I'd love to hear your opinions; but I'd especially love to hear from students/recent grads from other places...


Jasmin 156 said...

Thanks for getting involved in our debate!

Bryony said...

I think that the unis that don't have the placement year do advise students to take un-paid placements over the summer and Christmas...I think the main problem is not what uni's have to offer but more about how much effort you are willing to go to as an individual. Taking the example of the knitwear student...if you were truly interested in knitwear, you would teach yourself (like I did and you did in order to complete my collection)...laziness on their part if you ask me.

I honestly believe that the majority of our generation think the world owes them a living and that it is a cultural thing rather than a uni thing or even purely a fashion thing. Look at how many people under 25 on the dole...I have been out of uni 3 weeks and already have 2 jobs, fair enough its only potwashing but I am willing to do it because I don't believe that anything is above or below me and I need money to pay the bills, so how can people stay unemployed from leaving school?

Northumbria students do so well because they hand pick driven and ambitious students as well as talented ones and they push us to be competitive and how important it is to drive yourself, and not spoon feed us.

Rant over! But honestly I think that is as much a problem as the number or graduates applying for each job. If you want something, you get off your arse and work for it and in my opinion Jenn something will come up for you that is perfectly suited to who you are and you will get it because you are talented AND a grafter and that is evident from your collection and portfolio...keep strong!