The correct training will provide jobs and orders for the industry

Vanessa Brady, president of the Society of British and International Design (SBID), says that training needs to be conducted by properly qualified teachers if it is to help the KBB industry achieve its full potential and give its customers the best service

Designers are by definition the leaders of change, but ironically they are themselves the most resistant to change and they are both the main creator of, and barrier to, the industry’s growth.

I think it’s because of a general creative insecurity. It could be partly about one-upmanship – the ‘who do they think they are’ view of a few of the industry’s hierarchy. And it could also simply be the ignorance of those who are untrained or lack the basic industry knowledge they need to provide the accurate, compliant and innovative advice they should.

Unfortunately, there are still too many who fall into this category. Those who describe themselves as ‘qualified’ may or may not have a degree… and that is only half the story. The content taught has to be measured for relevance. Tutors may be qualified to teach, but who checks their industry knowledge? Who determines the curriculum?

I am an employer and I have frequently found over the years that graduates may possess a certificate, but they fail to possess basic knowledge on how to run or advise on a basic project.

At SBID, we are careful to vet each university we recognise. We don’t simply approve a university by friendship or prejudged assumption of meeting basic standards. Our education committee of the European Council of Interior Architects and Designers (ECIA) visits universities across Europe every five years, and SBID makes a personal visit to universities that apply for accreditation and provide guidance based upon knowledge required from the workplace.

There are still too many designers who lack the basic industry knowledge they need to provide the accurate, compliant and innovative advice they should

Underperformers masquerading as leaders of the industry negatively impact on the perception of its professionalism and damage the image of those who are quite simply brilliant at what they do. It is through collaboration, and only by total inclusiveness, that the industry will create positive change.

Every threat can be converted into an opportunity once identified and every opportunity converted into profit – and with profit comes growth. When the industry has an opportunity to grow, we create a positive following from media across all areas – bloggers, social media and investors. This encourages consumers to invest in professional services specifically in commissioning a professional in interior design.

I tell my own clients that they can do much of what I do themselves, but they will need the time to do it – and, of course, they will only be doing it for the first time. I have been doing it every day for 30 years, so it’s possible that I might bring something to the table to help save money, time, tempers and waste. They have no understanding of the process – building skills, compliance, multi-tradesmen and procurement procedure.

Consumers are time-challenged. You need to provide a service that frees their time, resolves issues as they arise – wrong size, wrong delivery address, wrong design, wrong colour, doesn’t fit, damaged – and solves every other problem as it arises. Then all the client sees is their old kitchen/bathroom/bedroom removed, replaced, tested and every form of relevant technology and product to achieve their desired lifestyle choice presented and explained. With such knowledge and sufficient time to think about the proposals – with every known and new product, facility or suggestion factored into the design before installation begins – the result will appear professional and you will have a happy outcome.

We must get our ducks in a row – highlight the problems, present a series of solutions and then programme the installation with deadlines, penalties for default and manage problems as they arise. I have always felt that a designer’s role is to build a strong relationship with the industry and together we can collectively and quietly resolve problems internally. We should not be calling each other names in front of clients.

This brings me full circle to the fact that if the training were tested, correctly executed and suitable knowledge taught in a fit-for-the-purpose way and incorporated into the training curriculum of each sector of the KBB industry supply chain, interior design would in turn provide jobs and orders for the industry.

Very often, consumers can’t face the thought of the disruption. They’ve heard or read horror stories about our industry, while competitors have duplicated what works and used it as a stick to beat us with.

If we combine our assets and skills, we can provide a mix of complementary services, each including industry-wide skills. And guess what, consumers will buy it! I have watched other industries tidy up their backyard, take control of distribution and encourage internet use as an additional sales aide. They have licensed and controlled online distributors and product sales, taken sale goods out of their beautiful showrooms and sold them in outlets at lower prices to a demographic that want quality at a reduced price.

In doing so, they built brand loyalty, they created markets at every price point for the consumer, they created choice and they raised their top price level to a select market. Together we too can flourish.

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