New national framework for design skills to drive innovation in Singapore

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said designers in Singapore can help to create solutions for major challenges. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A new national framework for the design industry was launched on Wednesday (July 24) by Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing in the nation's push to become an innovation-driven economy.

The Skills Framework for Design sets out a clear list of skills, career pathways and training programmes for 25 job roles, which are categorised in four tracks of business, design, innovation and technology. It aims to help workers upgrade and to help organisations become more design-led.

DesignSingapore Council (Dsg), which developed the framework together with SkillsFuture Singapore and Workforce Singapore, said designers can use it to deepen and broaden their skill sets, while non-designers can use it to equip themselves with design-related skills to lead innovation at the workplace.

Some of the emerging skills covered include business model innovation, content development and strategy, and design sustainability and ethics management.

Mr Chan said designers in Singapore can help create solutions for major challenges such as reducing carbon footprint, organising public housing to promote social inclusion, and retraining an entire workforce without their having to return to school.

"Your job is not just designing a product... you are almost designing how we develop as a society," he told about 300 people at a design industry conference, Design Conversations 2019, at Marina One.

DesignSingapore Council executive director Mark Wee said the aim of the new skills framework is to nurture a design thinking mindset for all, as a critical skill for the future workforce.

"To thrive in this uncertain economy, we need to be constantly curious, to quickly learn, to be flexible, and frankly, we all need design skills," he said.

He said the new framework shows people how to land their desired design job, and also helps organisations identify the right talent and understand how to nurture staff.

The demand for design skills is growing. The council said that between 2017 and 2022, the number of design professionals here is expected to grow by more than 12,000.

They may work in fields such as architecture, fashion design, advertising and user experience design.

Many of these will be in non-design companies. By 2022, for every design job in design services firms, there will be 1.8 design jobs in other types of firms such as technology, financial services and business consulting, said the council.

Already, the council has found that designers make up a growing share of senior managers at non-design companies. The share was 32 per cent in 2016, up from 12 per cent in 2014.

The new framework comes under the industry transformation map (ITM) for professional services. It is the 31st skills framework to be launched under the ITMs, which cover strategies to raise productivity and drive innovation in major industries here.

It was put together after consultation with 645 employers, design associations and training providers, and it complements recommendations on strengthening design higher education made by the Design Education Review Committee earlier this month (July).

Seven organisations, including design firms and Ngee Ann Polytechnic, have already committed to adopting the framework in their human resource practices.

For each of the 25 roles in the framework, critical work functions, key tasks and technical and generic skills and competencies are listed.

For example, visualisers or storytellers visualise design ideas and research new methods of communicating data-driven insights, among other things. Among the skills they need are empathetic design, conceptual thinking, communication and problem solving.

They earn between $2,250 and $4,875 from the 25th to 75th percentiles on the range of salaries for the role.

Another role covered is design researchers, who study key industry trends and conduct ethnographic research to support the development of user journeys and prototypes, for instance. They earn between $3,750 and $7,500 from the 25th to 75th percentiles.

Among the skills they need are market research, user and usability testing, sense making and teamwork.

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