Training the next generation of designers and engineers - Conservative Party Conference fringe event

Published 29th August 2018

On Monday 1st October 2018, The Design and Technology Association, in conjunction with the All-Party Parliamentary Design & Innovation Group and the Design Business Association (DBA) launched a report entitled ‘Design Skills and UK's Industrial Strategy’ at a prestigious event at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.  The day was designed to keep the conversation going, following previous round table events held earlier this year at The House of Commons.

Attendance at the event was impressive with tickets sold out almost a week before, highlighting the strong feeling surrounding the need for design and technology education and the importance of expanding the topics discussed across the country. The strength of interest justified the decision to take the discussion from Westminster to the West Midlands; the heart of manufacturing and engineering in the UK, and where there is an ever-growing focus and understanding of the importance of engineering, creativity and problem solving.

The morning keynote was delivered by Deborah Dawton, Chief Executive of the DBA who introduced the paper and the key recommendations held within. A panel discussion then followed with leaders from the design industry and education discussing the topic ‘what can D&T offer to continued growth across the Design sectors?’

The afternoon keynote was delivered by Professor David Clark, Principal Fellow at WMG as the audience’s attention was taken to the manufacturing and engineering sectors. This was followed by a lively panel debate involving professionals from across industry, education and skills sectors as they discussed ‘the role of D&T in enabling manufacturing/industrial growth post-Brexit’.

The report, compiled over the course of the last five months, sets out a vision for how design thinking can be embedded within our education system, equipping students with the knowledge and skills required to confidently face the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, automation and the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.  

It was no coincidence that this event was held during the Conservative Party Conference, as our plan was to maximize attendance from a broad sector of key decision makers. With nearly 200 people in the audience and participating throughout the day, there was a clear balance of influential individuals from across government, business, industry and education. This promoted a wide range of opinion, as we explored what should be done to inspire more young people to study design and technology both for its own value, and as part of a progression route into careers in the design, engineering and manufacturing industries.

Keynote speakers: Deborah Dawton from the DBA and Professor David Clark from Warwick Manufacturing Group

Morning Panellists –

  • Deborah Dawton (DBA)
  • Jack Tindale (Policy Connect).
  • Andy Mitchell, Freelance Educational Consultant of Design and Technology
  • Mark Fenson, Director of Michon Creative
  • Phil Rowberry, Design Team Leader at Green Room Design

Afternoon Panellists:

  • Andrew Churchill (MD of JJ Churchill Ltd),
  • Stuart Harper Global Learning and Development, JCB
  • Dr Julie Nugent (Director of Productivity and Skills, West Midlands Combined Authority)
  • Andrew Barker, James Dyson Foundation
  • Celia Thornley, Skills and Training Consultant, UKFT
  • Kate Tague - Executive Principle, WMG Academy for Young Engineers

The very best of design & technology was also showcased by six Midlands schools, who presented examples of their work and were available to discuss their experiences with the diverse range of people attending the event. Their work was linked to the discussions, emphasising how important design and technology education is, supporting the implementation of the Government’s Industrial Strategy and its stated intent to create more high-tech engineering and digital opportunities in a society that is increasingly reliant upon technology.

Students and their teachers demonstrated a range of creative digital and technical skills – from CAD/CAM through to robotics, textiles and 3D-printing and actively showcased examples of iterative design solutions which captivated the audience and reinforced our message that design and technology should be an essential curriculum option for all students.

Thank you to the teachers, pupils and parents of the participating schools:

  • Finham Park
  • WMG Academy for Young Engineers
  • Ely College
  • Edgbaston Grammar School for Girls
  • Shirelands Collegiate Academy
  • Rusheymead Academy

A big thank you to our kind sponsors who made this key event possible: Manufacturing Technologies Association (MTA), HME-Technology, OCR, VEX, Rapid and the IET who are similarly committed to the importance of design and technology and engineering education.

For more information regarding our activities with government organisations, parliamentarians and regulatory bodies then please contact us on 01789 470007 or email us on

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