As part of our series on untapped talent pools, we spoke with Shillington Education, a company that offers agile design education to help people up-skill, launch independent businesses, or succeed with major multinationals.
An ongoing challenge in the recruitment industry is that top talent are in short supply and high demand, especially for technology, strategy, and design roles . Many traditional hiring avenues are increasingly tapped; savvy agencies and business leaders are recognizing the potential of largely untapped talent pools. This includes recent moms and dads returning to the workplace, remote workers, and people with non-traditional education or degrees. Shillington Education talks about how they’re leveraging and supporting this changing talent landscape.
Let’s start on the hiring side. What are employers looking for in a designer?
[Anthony Wood, Global Director of Shillington Education]: To be successful as professional designers, graduates need more than just talent—they must master the industry-standard design software, hone their creative process, have a varied design portfolio, know how to pitch their work, be able to meet tight deadlines and always stay agile. Non-traditional schools like Shillington have the freedom, flexibility to cover all these bases.
How is your program structured? How are you teaching these skills to your students?
[Sarah McHugh, Director of Shillington United Kingdom]: We've spent the last 20 years perfecting Shillington's innovative, fast-paced approach to design education—tailored for learners at all levels to create industry-relevant portfolios, build confidence for the job hunt, and kickstart brand new creative careers.
[AW]: We're proud that Shillington graduates are a testament to our innovative approach and build extraordinary creative careers after only a three month full-time or nine month part-time course. They compete for jobs right alongside university graduates, impress employers with top-notch portfolios, and, most importantly—keep up in fast-paced workplaces, knowing how to meet deadlines once hired.
[SM]: To prove our model works, we recently collaborated with creative recruiters around the world to curate a Checklist to Become an Employable Graphic Designer, showing how our fast-paced course ticks all the boxes to launch a design career.
What sets Shillington Education apart from more traditional education options?
[SM]: Shillington teaches students how to work quickly and meet tight deadlines. Practising designers don't have the luxury of spending weeks or months on projects—most clients need work done as soon as possible. At Shillington, our classroom mimics the intensity of a real studio environment and graduates not only have creative talent, but know how to deliver results. Because we're not a tightly regulated degree program, Shillington can have an evolving curriculum—ensuring we teach the most up-to-date industry software and practices. We don't focus on grades or formal marks at Shillington—teachers independently mentor during every single class so students can create their very best work…[with] the best outcome—meaningful, purposeful and aesthetically-justified design work.
Are attitudes changing toward more non-traditional educational degrees?
[AW]: Perceptions are changing—employers are definitely recognising the talents and capabilities of "new school" designers. Especially in the creative industry, employers know a fancy piece of paper doesn't prove anything. Employers are consistently impressed by Shillington graduates' ability to work fast and smart in fast-paced studio environments. They know it's a missed opportunity to overlook a "non-degree" designer. Employers shouldn't make assumptions based on name or prestige—it's vital to look at the total package of skillset, output, and attitude.
I imagine that despite changing perceptions in the creative industry, there are still skeptics of non-traditional education. What would you say to them and what is the critical mass at which these attitudes begin to change?
[SH]: There will always be sceptics of non-traditional education, but we love how Shillington graduates prove them wrong at every turn. Their transformative testimonials show how our three month and nine month course delivers, the student work speaks for itself, and the style of our course builds students' confidence and agility for long-term creative careers.
To be honest—I myself was apprehensive of Shillington's promises when I first started teaching eight years ago, mostly because it challenged my own traditional route of a university Graphic Design Degree. A lot of our teachers feel the same way at first, but after seeing our course curriculum and outcomes in action, they're singing a different tune.
At Shillington, we've been challenging the norm as mavericks of design education for the past 20 years. We're used to the sceptics by now, but we're proud to still be going strong.