Preparing students for the future with industry links and work opportunities
Creative Advertising students at The Brooklyn Brothers agency in New York. Source: Buckinghamshire New University

In today’s competitive workforce, students are encouraged to take advantage of industry-related opportunities wherever possible.

Setting them up with the relevant experience before graduation shapes learners into competitive players in a saturated job market, leading to better chances of securing meaningful employment.

At the School of Art, Design and Performance at Buckinghamshire New University in the UK, students have plenty of opportunities for work placements and industry-linked activities, no matter which programme they study.

Community projects and work placement opportunities

Here, product design students are currently working on live projects with designer-maker Geoffrey Fisher, creating products from locally-coppiced wood.

Staff and students have been closely involved in community projects, such as the product design aspects of the WATERSPOUTT project, which looks at low cost water purification in rural Africa, with staff visiting Malawi, Ethiopia, South Africa and Uganda.

The follow-on project PANIWATER in India has just been launched in New Delhi, where the aim of the project is to increase the availability of safe drinking water to the minimum level recommended by the World Health Organisation.

Students of the BA (Hons) Creative Advertising course benefit from unprecedented access to many of the world’s major communications companies through the alumni network, which holds a respected 25-year history.

Product Design’s Waterspoutt project in Africa. Source: Buckinghamshire New University

In their third year of study, modules are directly linked to industry contacts with briefs from multi award-winning agencies such as Adam & Eve DDB, BBH, Lucky Generals, and Wieden & Kennedy.

Third year students also take part in Creature Week early in the first semester. It’s run by Stu Outhwaite, alumnus and Creative Partner at agency, Creature London – named last year as one of 1000 Companies to Inspire Britain.

During this week, students based at the agency take a bootcamp approach to producing a portfolio of conceptual and strategic campaigns. Following this, students head into The Workshop Awards with three top alumni creative teams, where they are required to present a brief from each agency.

The agency teams then judge the work and award points, whereby the overall top scorers win the agency teams as mentors.These direct contact and mentorship opportunities are the highlight of the course, offering a direct route to the very best of the UK’s creative communications industry.

Students enjoy a strong industry-linked educational experience through a variety of briefings, workshops, talks, portfolio critiques, mentoring and work experience.

Live projects

This approach to experiential learning is one that’s adopted across the board, as students in Graphic Design and Illustration also have the chance to get their feet wet.

Last year, learners in the programme worked  with computing students and the Community Safety & Wellbeing Team on the Safe Places scheme for Buckinghamshire County Council, to design and build a website/app to be used by the local community to provide safe havens for vulnerable people.

This project was also presented by two participating Graphics students at the 2018 UUK-HEA conference, expressing the value of cross-disciplinary team-based learning to student experience, engagement and employability.

Students of Graphic Design and Illustration were also responsible for designing the identity, posters, leaflets and films for the Bucks New University #NeverOK campaign, which sought to raise awareness of sexual violence on-campus.

These projects provide students with valuable opportunities where they can learn transferable skills like presenting, organisation and negotiation, as well as dealing with complex regulations and guidelines.

Students enrolled in the Fashion Design course immerse themselves in live projects with innovative brands and designers. Last year, the live project was run by London-based designer, Lara Jensen.  Lara is a costume designer and milliner who has worked with fashion and music’s biggest names, including Lady Gaga, Beyoncé and Kylie.

Students gained valuable insights into the inner workings of the fashion industry which not only fuelled an exciting design project, but also fed into their continued professional practice. Lara’s project allowed students to learn how to design for clients, gain a greater understanding of the luxury fashion market and create innovative fashion and accessories.

Fashion student Danielle Feheley. Source: Buckinghamshire New University

Similarly, in Textile Design, students engage in several live projects. Dulux have collaborated with the School twice to present their future trends predictions, which students then worked on to produce wallpapers and surfaces for the interiors market. The best two students were chosen by Dulux for a three-month long work placement with the company.

In addition to working with luxury sustainable fashion brand Tengri and design studio Tigerlily, textile students started work this year on a collaboration with the National Trust Osterley Park House, using it as a source of inspiration which they are mixing with contemporary themes.

Students in the Interior and Spatial Design course had the opportunity to visit Helsinki, where they went to Aalto University and Alvar Aalto’s house and studio, which had a hugely positive impact on their understanding of design and creativity.

To build creative bridges between industry and higher education, the university has recently established a partnership with Creative Media Skills, based at Pinewood Studios, delivering MA programmes relevant to the film industry.

Premium workshop facilities

Besides offering external learning opportunities, the university also has its own top-class facilities to support student learning and creativity, including drama and dance studios, production and photography suites, and healthcare simulation labs.

Highlights include Art and Design workshops with industry-specific equipment for new and traditional art and design methods.

Students have access to course-specific spaces for their coursework, including computer suites, a photography studio, the Red Shed fashion and textiles facility, workshops for wood, metal and ceramics, and facilities for mould-making and plaster work.

There’s also the state-of-the-art FabLab, which includes digital manufacturing equipment such as 3D printing, CAD/CAM and model making, painting and finishing.

Interior and Spatial Design visit to Alvar Aalto’s Studio in Helsinki. Source: Buckinghamshire New University

The Red Shed, home to BA (Hons) Fashion Design and BA (Hons) Textile Design, is based over two floors. Here, each student is allocated their own dedicated work space within a lively work area, alongside teaching areas and a Mac suite with scanners up to A0.

The Red Shed contains an in-house fabric and yarn store, equipped with industry-standard facilities, including screen printing, a dye lab, knitting machines, sewing and garment production, laser cutter (90cm/160cm), Mimaki digital and heat-transfer printing for fabric, heat presses and surface stitch machines, including a tufting machine and a Cornelli.

If you want to shine in the creative industries, success begins at the School of Art, Design and Performance, Buckinghamshire New University.

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