Archives for posts with tag: professional development


The Australian Design Alliance (AdA) was formed in September 2010 to bring all the professional associations within design together under one umbrella. 12 members are part of the group, ranging from Australian Graphic Design Association, the Australian Institute of Architects to Council of Textile and Fashion Industries of Australia. All members are national bodies, and the AdA covers approximately 80,000 designers across the country from a range of disciplines.

Lisa’s role is threefold; to lobby the federal government for a national design policy, to advocate around design education across all levels and to profile the design sector through case studies and activities. She spoke to arts interview on the importance of learning and the current opportunities out in the market for professional development.

 Interview by Kim Goodwin

How important is continued learning for those in the design industry, and where can such opportunities be found?

 For all of us continued learning is really important. A lot of the work that designers do is collaborative, so they are constantly expanding their knowledge as they develop designs. As the industry moves and shifts, and technology changes continued learning is crucial to take advantage of all opportunities.

There are formal options through art, design and architecture schools around the country, tertiary and continuing education choices, professional development through associations and other learning practices throughout the field. It’s hard to generalise, but many in the design sectors, such as industrial or graphic designers are in small to medium enterprises, so often they aren’t as equipped to provide the level of development as larger organisations. SME professional development is generally available through associations such as the Design Institute of Australia. So wherever you are, there are various opportunities, but the most powerful learning is often on the job.

You’re about to facilitate an online learning program through the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA), can you tell us a little bit about that?

 NAVA Connect is NAVA’s first venture into online learning for which I’ve been asked to facilitate one of four programs. The course is called “Expanding Your Career” and is essentially for artists and designers who are looking for ways to take their career a step further.  It focuses on opportunities in local government such as public art or community cultural development, product development, manufacturing and marketing, and international opportunities. The aim is to help extend practice in ways that are beyond the individual studio to grasp available options and develop alternative income generation.

Conducting online learning is relatively new in the arts sector, what benefits can you see?

 One of the benefits is flexibility – you can access and do online programs whenever you want. You don’t have to turn up to a physical location at a particular time, but rather make it fit around your work commitments or practice. It has also a lower cost of delivery so it can be offered to participants at a much lesser rate. Online learning opens you up to a network of people that may not have been accessible before, where new ideas generation can occur, particularly if you work as an individual artist.

The online learning enables you to come to grips with technology, in ways that may not have been done in your career so far. It really throws you into a technical environment, but one that is gentle, easy to use, supported, and opens up access to a range of online resources. Finally, teaching new ways of working with people provides an ability to collaborate with others in a virtual environment, which in the current market is a great asset.

You’ve had a very successful career in a number of high profile organisations, where have you personally found your best learning opportunities?

 Aside from formal learning, my most significant experience has been on the job.  Learning by doing, learning from collaborating with others and learning from mistakes. So, looking at how they operate, view the lessons and establish my own working patterns.

One thing someone once said to me has really stuck in my mind. Very early on in my career, when I was working within a government department in Canberra, I sat down with my manager to discuss the extension of a program I was working on. It was something I felt was absolutely impossible to do, and he said to me “Nothing is impossible, you’ve just got to work out a way of doing it.” That was really valuable to me, to say to myself “You are right, it may not be the best way, or the way I want to go, but we can do this.” It made me see that I needed to shift my thinking and to tackle the problem in a different way.


anonymous roundtable

This week’s interview is based on a panel of emerging arts practitioners in a round table discussion about their experiences of entering the arts industry. In the arts, there is a preconceived notion that internships only involve stuffing envelopes and coffee runs. This panel serves to break down this stereotype and discuss the value, as well as the positive and negative experiences, and how it can affect your career in the arts industry. Reflecting on past experience they examine ways in which we can provide more support and learning opportunities for emerging art practitioners. To allow openness and honesty in the interview, the participants have remained anonymous.

Interview by Georgina Sandercock

What do you see are the barriers to getting a successful foothold into the arts industry?

Panel Member 1: For me, education has had a huge impact on my career. I feel that in general, the arts management post-graduate degrees available are not providing the necessary practical skill set needed for success in the arts industry. These post-graduate degrees offer a wide variety of theoretical knowledge, but lack the means in which to execute this in a practical setting. Where else can we access valuable resources and networks if not through our education?

Panel Member 2:  In today’s arts climate, almost every person interested in the arts industry attains a relevant post-graduate degree, so each year at least 150 other graduating students with identical resumes will be applying for the same jobs. With these statistics and a lack of practical knowledge, looking for jobs can be daunting and in some cases seem hopeless.

Panel Member 3: I think it is virtually impossible to apply for a job without doing some kind of volunteering or unpaid internships. To other industries it may seem ludicrous to give long periods of our time to a project or organisation for no pay, but in the arts industry it is a necessity that allows you to gain the practical knowledge that we are not receiving through education and develop relationships and networks for the future. Reflecting on my experiences, I would not feel confident going straight into the arts industry without doing an internship. There needs to be more communication that volunteering and internships are essential barriers to overcome in order to gain practical knowledge to successfully enter the arts industry.

How have you found your first jobs or internships? 

Panel Member 1: From my experience as intern, I felt like I was treated as if I had no experience and was a novice to even the most remedial administrative tasks. I was not treated badly, however I felt very underappreciated and undervalued.

Panel Member 2: I actually shocked my organisation with my capability. They said their previous interns were completely incompetent. The organisation had obviously been tainted by this experience. Sadly, the preconceived idea that all interns are treated badly could actually have something to do with the ability of the intern.

If you are lucky enough to be offered a job after your internship, the transition from intern to paid employee is a difficult task. It is hard to balance the previous expectations as an intern with new responsibilities of an employee. You are not expected to do all the remedial tasks that had been assigned to you previously, but in a new role, especially a junior role, there is still an element of lower level tasks you will need to do in order to prove your value and responsibility.

Have your experiences at first jobs, volunteering and internships been valuable?

Panel Member 1: I think you can draw from both negative and positive experiences in first jobs and internships. I always felt valued at my internship which motivated me to work harder and I was fine with that. I think feeling valued really affects the experience you can have as an intern. Alternatively, I see the great value of actually doing an internship. It is essentially free learning and you gain a practical skill set that you can utilise for future roles. I have also developed an understanding of internal politics, which often plays an integral role in the arts industry.

Panel Member 3: Definitely. Without my internship I would not have gotten a job in the arts. I agree whether you have a good or bad experience, both can be beneficial to your future in the arts industry. My internship allowed me to experience a variety of different roles in an organisation and from this I could determine what really interested me and if I could actually do the job.

What could be done better to provide learning and support for new arts practitioners?

Panel Member 1: Communication and more opportunities for networking within and outside of university appear to be the areas that could vastly improve learning and support.  We have come to realise there is virtually no funding, such as grants and scholarships specifically for emerging arts practitioners. How can we fully invest our time in volunteer projects and internships when we can only afford to give one day a week due to other financial commitments?

Panel Member 2: Often you have to search high and low for career advice during and after university as there is nothing to support the transition between university and the arts industry. We need more information and advice and perhaps an organisation solely dedicated to emerging arts practitioners. Many of us have found ourselves lacking direction when faced with the next step in our career and it only dawned on me after the fact the effect my internship experience has had on my career.

Where else can you get information on learning in the arts: