Educator Methodology demonstrates how it is done
Brian Ling is something of a Lego expert – although not in the traditional sense.
The co-founder of design education and training provider Methodology likens the crafting of his firm’s programmes to “assembling Lego bricks” to create a final “model”.
One example took place in May 2019, when Methodology was appointed by Workforce Singapore (WSG) to run a new Professional Conversion Programme (PCP)¹ to train local mid-career individuals in User Experience and User Interface (UX/UI) skills and take on emerging roles in this sector. This PCP has two tracks – one in UX/UI Digital Design and the other in UX/UI Spatial Design.
This time, he had an additional tool helping to build these metaphorical Lego models – the Skills Framework for Design² launched in the same year.
We had a chat with him to find out how he did it.
Why do you see value in the Skills Framework for Design?
As members of the design sector, we were very fortunate to be part of its development from the beginning. In the past, there were some very loose norms around how a designer should be progressing in his career. But the reality was that much of it had to do with each organisation and what was specific to its needs. When the Skills Framework for Design came out, I saw there was a lot of value; it was like a Lego instruction manual, guiding us on how to put the pieces together.
How exactly did you leverage the Skills Framework for Design to create the PCP training programmes?
The Skills Framework for Design offers a list of skills and competencies for each job role in the design sector. Each of these has a proposed proficiency level, and that was very helpful. Guided by this, we then crafted the programme to help students acquire the relevant skills and competencies at the requisite proficiency levels, for them to be able to perform the job roles, which they were to be converted to.
For instance, a UX/UI Digital Designer must have a design thinking practice proficiency of at least Level Three. The Skills Framework for Design details what this means – such as being able to apply design thinking methodologies to define problems and generate new ideas for the organisation – and we cherry-picked from our library of courses and workshops to include these modules in the programme.
With this, how did an employer benefit from sending a staff to the PCP for UX/UI (Digital/Spatial) Design Professionals?
In addition to having a clear picture of the skill sets that the staff will have after completing the training, the employer will be assured that his/her abilities are benchmarked against the Skills Framework for Design. The staff should then be able to move into more senior roles in the organisation if he/she performs well at work. Another advantage is that part of the PCP training is spent in the classroom, with a large portion focused on structured on-the-job training, where the participants work on actual projects. This allows for the application of the skills learnt onto real-world problems and ensures a more practical, hands-on experience.
Did you encounter any challenges in applying the Skills Framework for Design and how did you overcome them?
We worked closely with our education partner, the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA), to come up with the training programmes. It took NAFA a few weeks to do it because they had to understand the intended outcomes of the PCP, and what is being taught in Methodology’s existing workshops and courses, before matching it to the Skills Framework for Design. I must say that the Skills Framework for Design is quite high-level, offering a more top-down approach. As training providers, we have a bottom-up approach in coming up with the content. This meant we had to take time to map and align the two ends to create that “Lego model”, i.e. the final PCP training programme.
What was the response like towards the three runs of the PCP?
The three runs lasted from May 2019 to November 2020 and we received very positive feedback. One thing that the students really liked was that we had a lot of mentoring sessions and roundtables. We invited experts from the sector and had fireside chats where they answered questions, such as those pertaining to the challenges and solutions they faced in their career and work.
What advice do you have for other training providers on how to leverage the Skills Framework for Design to create training programmes?
Understand what the Skills Framework for Design is and what it hopes to do. Employers will soon recognise that there is a lot of value in this and it will eventually become an industry-wide benchmark, especially since design is rising in importance. Therefore, as a training provider, you need to align with it or be left behind.
“A Great Place To Start”
Ninja Van employee Bryan Loo was one of the participants of the Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) for User Experience/User Interface (UX/UI) Digital Design. He shares his experience.
“I was an architectural assistant in DP Architects before I decided to make a career change to become a UX designer. Upon joining Ninja Van in 2019 as a digital product designer at an associate level, I attended the PCP for UX/UI Digital Design. I was excited at the prospect of a government-funded initiative where I could receive proper training in UX design principles, concepts and methodologies.
The programme consisted of lessons (both theory and practical) on UX fundamentals that touched upon digital and spatial design. Among the highlights were the external courses we attended, facilitated by very helpful instructors, and the group project that allowed us to apply the knowledge and skills we had learnt on more complex problems.
The programme allowed me to temporarily step out of my day-to-day job at Ninja Van to discover different avenues in applying UX methodologies to solve new problems. It also provided me with more opportunities to apply and practise different UX strategies and approaches. I am now more confident in running independent research efforts, design sprints and design iterations, tasks which I would previously have needed guidance from a mentor.
Following completion of the PCP, my employer has entrusted me with broader roles and responsibilities such as more strategic UX solutioning, in-depth user research, UI design and information architecture design. I was also promoted to a mid-level product designer.”
¹WSG has since renamed the PCP to Career Conversion Programme (CCP). The next run of the programme offered by Methodolgy is titled ‘CCP for Experience Design (UX/UI)’ and will commence in October 2021. For more information, do visit https://methodology.sg or contact Methodology at firstname.lastname@example.org.
²Jointly developed by SkillsFuture Singapore, Workforce Singapore, and the DesignSingapore Council, together with industry associations, training providers, organisations and unions.