Data released last week shows that take-up of A-level Design and Technology courses has dropped for the fourth year in a row.  The number of students entered for D&T A-levels in 2015 is down 3.19 per cent on 2014, the fifth largest decline this year (behind Music, ICT, Law and German). GCSE entrants have also dropped 4.13 per cent.

This decline is especially concerning when the design sector is growing at a historic rate, having been the fastest growing sector in the creative industries since 2008, with the number of jobs rising by a third since 2011. The drop in students suggests we could soon be facing a critical shortage of workers and design skills in the UK.

This is the fourth year in a row that Design and Technology has declined at Key Stage 5, having fallen from around 19,000 in 2011 to around 13,000 in 2015: a decline of almost a third. GCSEs have fallen 19 per cent during the same period, with around 50,000 fewer students taking Design and Technology in 2015 than in 2011.  This means A-level figures are certain to decline yet again in 2016. 

We need to reverse these worrying trends before the skills gap becomes unbridgeable.

John Mathers, Chief Executive, Design Council

John Mathers, Design Council Chief Executive said: “Industry is crying out for skilled designers, and foreign companies are cherry-picking the finest British designers at will. The UK automotive sector, for instance, is only four years away from a severe skills crisis, and is either going to have to start looking overseas for its workforce, or scale back its ambitions. We need to reverse these worrying trends before the skills gap becomes unbridgeable.” 

Part of the reason for the decline is likely to be the government’s focus on the ‘core academic’ subjects – Maths, English and Science – which have all seen an increase in the last year.  However, the loss of more specialist and creative skills could threaten to derail the government’s plans for growth by increasing productivity. 

You can read more about design in the automotive sector in our Leading Business by Design research

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