By Asil Adil Al Baghdadi, Interior Architecture & Design Department, University of Sharjah
The design industry today demands the development of new ways of collaboration between academia and business. Hence, it is crucial to expose interior design students to industry and to have them acquire knowledge of the required tasks and scope of real life interior design work in order to prepare them for future professional roles.
An interior designer’s job scope is not limited merely to decoration. It involves a complexity of tasks and processes of work within interior environments including the construction and completion of the finishing phase of projects. So allowing students to have the right level of knowledge as expected by industry while understanding project needs and technicalities is a must to meet any future client’s requirements.
Finding suitable internship opportunities can be tricky for some students. However, with the help of an academic advisor the right placement can usually be arranged. Over the years, there have been companies that have shown consistent interest in training students and we have been able to rely on them to accommodate those students struggling to locate the right company.
In my experience, many interior design companies are interested in training students and getting them involved in real-life projects. That said, there are still some companies that shy away from accepting interns for different reasons, including lack of time to take care of the students or simply not caring about ‘giving back’.
It is really important that companies embrace the point of view that training the future generation is of mutual interest, and understand that it will contribute to a better profession, generally speaking.
The main aims of collaboration are to provide academics with professional tools for teaching and to deliver courses to students that aim to raise their awareness of the opportunities as well as the challenges of a career in the design industry. Cooperation between universities and the interior design industry can facilitate the transfer of knowledge and even stimulate the production of new knowledge and technology as a result of exposing students to real projects with real clients in real life.
These results can be achieved through a series of interior design realistic problem-solving activities with a particular focus on reflecting on how each task was performed under the guiding principles of teamwork and team review. Teamwork is increasingly important within higher education, not only because of employers demand it, but also for pragmatic reasons due to the increase in the intake of design students.
There is a wide-ranging body of research on teamwork – both from clinical psychology and field work in education – premised on theoretical underpinnings, which show that groups can provide a powerful context for learning.This in turn suggests that the development of teamwork is well worth supporting and fostering.
The purpose of vocational higher education is to equip graduates to deal with the demands of a rapidly changing working environment. Collaboration between the interior design industry and higher education through internship programs is a good way to bridge the divide – provided that students spend enough time in their internships to be able to gain the expected expertise.