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Designer fears for web industry’s future

Problems in education are leading to skills shortage, argues Gavin Elliott

Gavin Elliott
Gavin Elliott thinks education needs to improve to safeguard the future of the web industry

Designer and conference organiser Gavin Elliott is concerned about the future of the web industry and thinks its health may be short-lived. Last month, he wrote at length on his blog about the problem, saying that although the industry is currently in relatively rude health, it’s increasingly going to suffer through talent shortages.

.net spoke to Elliott, the man behind the annual Design It, Build it conference, who said these thoughts have been concerning him for months. On financial matters, he seems pleasantly surprised with how the industry has largely weathered the financial storm, arguing that it has become “a lot more professional over the last couple of years, and real ROI can be made utilising the skills of the web industry”. But in terms of education and what happens once students graduate, worries remain. 

“I’ve very deep feelings about how under-performing our education system is for the web industry around the world,” says Elliott. “This is leading us into a position where the mid-level professionals are being offered increasing amounts of money to move to other roles around the world, and freelancers are being acquired into well-funded companies. This leaves anything below mid-level quite unrepresented with regards to skill and experience.”

We ask if he believes there are problems with the expectations of recent graduates, with too many making unrealistic demands; Elliott counters that too often it’s the graduates that lack support: “We throw too much at them without providing the underlying knowledge we’ve gained. This leads them to rely on their own, usually very weak experience, for much much longer than they should. We should be retraining graduates so they have real-world knowledge as fast as humanly possible when they enter the industry, hence why I believe that Mark Boulton's Apprenticeships are genius.”

Safeguarding the future of the industry is, thinks Elliott, a complex challenge. He believes we must “get more people involved or looking to get involved in our industry from a younger age, working with the education system directly to see how we can achieve this”. In addition, he’d like to see an increase in “lengthy placements that act as mini-apprenticeships”.

What are your thoughts about the state of web education and how it impacts the industry? Do you think the industry’s in good health? Let us know in the comments.

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