The Expert Group on Future Skills Needs has published its new report, Together for Design: Digital, Product and Strategic Design Skills of the Future

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Wednesday, 10 June 2020 The Expert Group on Future Skills Needs has published its new report, Together for Design: Digital, Product and Strategic Design Skills of the Future. This study examines the future demand for design skills over the years 2020 to 2025.

Design is an important driver of economic growth, integral to both industry and society. It adds strategic value, creative thinking and innovation from the earliest stages of development through to the final delivery of products and services. The meaning of design has evolved greatly over the past century and, with the fourth industrial revolution, it is evolving again.

Winning by Design, the 2017 predecessor to this report, identified three major types of design as important for Ireland’s economic success:

  • Digitaldesign;
  • Product design; and
  • Strategic design.


Together for Design
builds on this foundation, forecasting the need for digital, product and strategic design skills over the years 2020 to 2025. The report finds that by 2025 occupations in digital, product and strategic design could see a growth between 21,000 to 33,000, accounting for 2.8% of all jobs in Ireland. Programmers and software professionals are anticipated to account for the majority of additional jobs.  In contrast to this demand, around 1,300 students graduate annually with relevant skills from Higher and Further Education in Ireland. 

This research was led by a Steering Group consisting of representatives across Government Departments, State Agencies, enterprise, education and the design community. It combines quantitative analysis based on data provided by the Central Statistics Office, Higher Education Authority and SOLAS, and qualitative research undertaken through a stakeholder survey, one-on-one interviews, and insights from three workshops which brought together representatives from across the design community, enterprise and education in a conversation about design in Ireland.

The final report features a review of the design skills of students in Ireland, an assessment of relevant national and international policies to support and promote design, and the main drivers impacting on current and future design skills.

Together for Design sets out recommendations for the design community and education system to ensure Ireland can keep up with this need:

  1. A collective voice for leadership in design.

There is a need for design to present a collective voice across enterprise, academia and the design community. The forthcoming National Design Centre should help refine a collective ‘voice’ so that emerging and urgent issues can be anticipated and met.

  1. Policy interventions to address skills shortages in design.

The provision of flexible education provision methods, the delivery of Technology 2022 and the promotion of Springboard and Skillnet Ireland are key to addressing design skills shortages.

  1. Collaboration between education and enterprise.

Collaboration is vital to help deliver the design skills required by enterprise. The design community should engage directly with educational institutions to facilitate developmental processes for educators and to support the emergence of new design disciplines and career options.

  1. Develop career pathways in design.

Current and any future funding pathways, such as Springboard, Skillnet Ireland, the Human Capital Initiative and apprenticeships should be fully utilised to deliver additional design skills.

  1. Design in education.

The design community should engage with the guidance profession and the Transition Year programme to embed design in secondary school, while engaging with post-secondary educational institutions to promote strategic design in their offerings.

These recommendations are being progressed by the design community by a Design Skills Implementation Group.

Minister of the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, said: “Together for Design is an important contribution to the ongoing preparation for future skills demands. In an increasingly digitalised landscape, design skills are not only a driver of economic growth but a key component of Ireland’s innovation ecosystem. For this reason, I am delighted to welcome this report and its recommendations, which pave the way for Ireland to embrace design and meet the demand for these increasingly vital skills.“

The Chair of the EGFSN, Tony Donohoe, welcomed the report’s publication: “I am delighted to launch the EGFSN’s latest report, Together for Design. The predecessor to this report, Winning by Design, established that design is a crucial component of competitiveness and innovation; and that product, digital and strategic design skills will be increasingly important as digitalisation calls for solutions to increasingly complex problems across industry and society. Together for Design is the natural progression of this work, forecasting the demand for these cross-cutting skills and setting out the next steps for Ireland to realise its potential and become a leader in design thinking.”

Andrew Bradley of Bradley Brand and Design said: The publication of ‘Together for Design’ in a seminal moment in development of the design profession in Ireland. Implementing the recommendations will ensure design practice is embedded into Irish enterprises as well as our society at large. The report is a wonderful collaboration between designers, academia and enterprise, and it is exciting to see the design community continue this collaborative spirit in its implementation.”

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