Design skills are vital to UK productivity but businesses face a growing skills gap

,  6 February 2018

New research by Design Council has captured and measured design skills against economic performance to understand their entire contribution to the UK economy.

Design skills are contributing more to the UK economy than previously thought
Design skills are contributing more to the UK economy than previously thought

Design Council's first of its kind research report ‘Designing a Future Economy: Developing design skills for productivity and innovation’, has brought to light the need for wider recognition and investment in design skills, particularly at a time when stagnant productivity continues to challenge UK economic growth.

What are the key findings? 

  • Design skills are used across the economy, not just in design firms. Ranging from technology to health, and including sectors such as banking and construction, design is at the core.
  • Workers with design skills contribute £209bn to the UK economy (GVA).
  • Workers using design skills are 47 per cent more productive than the average UK worker, delivering almost £10 extra per hour in GVA.
  • Skills shortages and gaps amongst those already working in design-skilled occupations cost the UK economy £5.9bn per year.
  • At least 2.5m people use design skills in their day to day work, which is the equivalent to 1 in 12 workers.

Crucially Design Council identify that whilst design occupations such as architecture, software or product design are well understood, the wider importance of design skills in a range of sectors is less recognised.

These occupations, the report finds, are often higher value jobs at the forefront of the fourth industrial revolution and the charity calls for urgent integration of design into key STEM (STEAMD) subjects and the reintroduction of Design and Technology to the GCSE curriculum. 

Design is all around us, it is in our homes, our offices, our travel networks, and even in our health and education systems.

Design Council Chief Executive Sarah Weir (OBE) said: “Design is all around us, it is in our homes, our offices, our travel networks, and even in our health and education systems. Yet it is precisely because design is at the centre of our lives and technological change that its value is often overlooked."

"Our research not only sought to change this but to truly understand the value of design to the UK economy. Even we were surprised by the scale of the findings."

"We knew design skills had a wider impact on our economy but £209 billion (47 per cent higher productivity) is so significant it makes this research even more important, particularly when decisions on industrial strategy and skills investment are being taken".

"Design skills are not an enrichment they are a necessity for the UK, and it is time to act”.

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