Vanishing Point

Chris Hyde,  6 April 2018

Introduction by Pablo Lloyd, CEO, Activate Apprenticeships.

When I ask our business clients what they look for in new recruits, they tell me they are becoming less interested in qualifications and more interested in creativity and the ability to learn. Our Director of Creative Arts, Chris Hyde, illuminates this in the following article about the vanishing point.

Basic design and technology education is crucial
Basic design and technology education is crucial

In the run-up to our 2018 National Conference, we are running a series of think-pieces on key issues affecting our creative industries and the future of the workforce. 

As a student of Design and Technology, a very long time ago now, I remember being taught the types of perspective drawing and the importance of referencing the vanishing point. The critical thing about a vanishing point is that it helps create scale, focus and a sense of relationship order. This vital tiny little point, that is often not seen, enables the designer to produce an image, in my case often an item of furniture, that can be seen and communicated to others.

I have taught and directed Design and Technology subjects for nearly 25 years. A key observation has been the challenge year on year in recruiting students who arrive at post 16 education with declining design and technology skills and attributes. So I question why the Educational Secretary can’t see what we see, like the invisible vanishing point to help with constructing a perspective drawing, when it comes to the must-have of design and technology starting points in schools.

The importance of the basics

It is a key human need and condition to ‘create’, ‘make’ and try to ‘master’.  As a creator, when you make something there is a little bit of your skill and thinking that you pass on to the receiver. The creator creates, the factory produces, and hand in hand they work together – design to prototyping to manufacture.

Design and technology is core to early understanding of materials, processes, tools and discipline. It prepares a student for problem solving and problem finding. This can be in a methodical way that could, and will, in the future be mainly achieved by robots and Artificial Intelligence with coded logarithms. But more importantly can be as a fine artist approach – solving the problem from outside the box.

Creative thinking can be revolutionary and so useful in local and national communities

That creative thinking can be revolutionary and so useful in local and national communities. In this country we have a creative design reputation build upon. The UK Creative Industries has a gross value added (GVA) value of £92bn. Yet entries for GCSEs in creative subjects fell by 46,000 last year.

The English Baccalaureate choices (EBACC) has driven out the creative subjects towards the fringes as a core choice from the academic subject options (STEM -Science Technology Engineering Maths) due to a measurement of success displayed as in school league tables. The up and coming Technical Levels will divide the academic from the vocational, creating pathways as either being for the bright or those who are good with their hands.

Creativity complements critical thinking

From my perspective, Engineering, Science and Creative Art and Design subjects all have critical thinking and analysis in common, so why divide them into current favourites or not? In the same way academic and vocational does not have to be an either/or. Through both experience and observation in my role, I have clearly seen the intellectual thinking of a designer-maker.

From a starting point in Design and Technology, there is much cross over of high order thinking skills to the mastery of craft skills. Parallel to this, there is a requirement of an understanding of sciences such as chemistry and physics.

We want to find these problem solvers and finders of the future.

Therefore, collaboration, combination and innovation pull all these together from whichever side of the in-favour or not fence they sit in. It is clear to us that creative, technical and social attributes combine these disciplines.

We want to shout out and protect these design and technology routes into our industry. We want to find these problem solvers and finders of the future.

We want to give students a chance to see themselves enjoy doing more than just swiping a piece of glass on a phone or pushing a button. To see them have a sense of achievement, standing back and admiring what they have made and how it positively benefits others in communities.

Hope for the future

However, I do believe that there is hope.

NESTA and the Creative Industries Federation have just announced that the number of UK creative jobs is set to grow 5.3% by 2024, faster than STEM at 5.1%, and double the average rate of employment, which will increase by 2.5%.

We must remember that the next industrial revolution is in young people's imaginations. 

The great work of the Sorrell Foundation National Saturday clubs. Also, the development of the Maker Network movement of Makerspaces and Fab labs will continue to grow and combine formal and informal learning.

We agree, it would be such a shame to see the teaching of designing and making, which is so important to this country, just being a secret elective choice in an after-school club. 

The vanishing point of perspective is a powerful thing. We must remember that the next industrial revolution is in young people's imaginations. Our job is to nurture all of their talent – and keep an eye on the vanishing point.

Activate Apprenticeships delivers apprenticeship programmes to 1,000 business clients across the UK including Benchmark Furniture, BMW, Amey and Kone Lifts.

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