Comment: the future for kitchen design

David Gillett runs the FDA Kitchen Design course at Buckinghamshire New University. He talks to Studio about his experience setting up the first UK dedicated kitchen design degree in the industry’s history.

“It would have been about June 2014 when I was asked by a senior member of staff in the faculty at Buckinghamshire New University: ‘How many students are actually enrolled for the new kitchen course this September David?’ ‘At the moment, one,’ I said. ‘Looks like it’s not going to happen,’ came the response. As they say, the rest is history. Step forward a number of passionate key industry individuals, some foresighted people at the University, including my then-boss Professor Alison Shreeve, and our first intake.

Three years on, those students – our pioneers, our future advocates – will complete the first dedicated kitchen design degree in the industry’s history in this country. The small but farsighted group of students, staff and industry partners have driven and shaped and supported the programme to a point where it will now coalesce perfectly with the new Government backed apprenticeship ‘wave’ to upskill through on-the-job training that is now ‘breaking’ across every business threshold. Degrees might not be for everyone – but good training and education should be, especially when formalised as a planned, structured and managed process. So we are looking to build more programmes, both below and above the existing Foundation Degree (FdA), within the new Apprenticeship Initiative.

The timing could not be better. We have developed and refined a part-time blended distance learning model at the University through the FdA that will fit seamlessly within industry-led apprenticeships at all levels – beginner, improver, master. The great thing is these programmes will belong to the industry.

I imagine a time when businesses and customers will expect kitchen designers, as they would an engineer, to have industry specific qualifications, fused with their on-the-job training and experience. Why not? We need to build a tradition where it is accepted that people will undergo long-term training and education for the good of the business, employer and themselves. The smaller the organisation the more difficult it is to deliver quality in-house training, because delivering education programmes requires expertise such as ours, just as running a successful kitchen studio does.

We had to start somewhere so we did. The next stage begins. The momentum that the University has built with our industry partners is accelerating, pointing to the future through the industry-led Trailblazer Group that is keen to develop apprenticeship standards for the kitchen industry at all levels through the Government’s Skills Funding Agency. And by the way, that studio across the road – you know, the one where our soon-to-be graduate works – they’re just about to gain a competitive edge, because qualifications bring confidence, knowledge and validation. Don’t get left behind.”

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Image: Donna Fox (Year 3 student)

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