What I am about to say is the hard truth.
No matter what they tell you, no Design School can completely train you to be 100% ready for the workforce.
That’s right. I’ve heard that even designers from the famous Art Center College in Pasadena, in the US, still need to be properly re-trained before they become useful in certain situations.
Why is that? Why is it that some universities can hit the mark and while most are completely off track in the training and eventual employability of their graduates? My feeling is that we should look towards the design industry for answers, as well as the Design profession as a whole.
Design as a profession which is, I must say, one of the most varied professions out there. This is largely due to the length and breath of the product development process of which a Designer should be a “custodian” to. Therefore, technically speaking, a Designer can therefore actually position himself in any part of this product development process depending on his skills and interests. I have many designer friends working in non-traditional, non-styling ID fields such as pure Product/Design Management, 3D Architectural Design, Graphics, textile design, fashion, Product Marketing, Case Part Design and even Packaging. All this professions actually need very varied skill sets to be successful in.
This being said, my feeling is that it is extremely difficult to teach you all you need to know in a 4 year ID degree course. I shudder to think how much you can lean in 3 year courses or courses that are offered on a polytechnic/diploma level. Furthermore to proper appreciate the scope of ID you need a certain level of maturity and thus I continue to feel you need to study this course at an institute of higher learning.
With that in mind, we now look at the design industry. As you can see the profession is varied and the process is long and all require different set of skills to survive. Invariably a university course set out to teach for a certain employer in mind will satisfy that type of employer but totally miss out the others. Thus to me this discussion of whether a graduate designer is relevant to industry is a moot one.
For example a conceptual designer can find work in a slower pace in-house design team. On the other hand this designer may not be so employable in a design consultancy as more practical skills like design detailing or 3D CAD are required.
Now back to the topic at hand. To survive in this field, you will need to know thyself. Know what your strengths and weakness and your interests. Be aware that there are many possible types of Design jobs out there, other than the traditional “make it beautiful” one. Then make sure your strengths and weakness matches the type of design profession YOU want to apply to.
In this way you can continue to be relevant in this fast pace ever changing design profession. Good Luck!