OPINION: Teach students about the real world

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Kleshna Handel on how universities could help jewellery students.

Taken from Professional Jeweller‘s Voice of the Industry column, Kleshna Handel, managing director of Kleshna, explains why she believes universities should be doing more to prepare jewellery students for the reality of the business and its challenges.

They taught me how to make a great box clasp but not how to earn a living

The title of this month’s column is not some idiosyncratic sentence I have strung together but something that a student I have recently interviewed said. It got me thinking – are we failing many of the students leaving our universities by not teaching them more about commerce, how to get a job, how to sell their work and the like?

We have recently and happily had cause to go into a recruitment drive for a couple more members to add to our team and the answers to our interview questions have been frightening, not enlightening. Few of the people that we have interviewed seemed to have any commercial nous or understanding about how a business works. Maybe you would say that is why they need a job but isn’t it a bit unkind to send them out into the world armed with only a portfolio of luscious designs to shield themselves?

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Whilst clearly being a bit melodramatic I fear that I may get shot down in flames or burnt at the stake by some of the more scholarly amongst you, especially any university tutors amongst the readers. However I do think that we need to teach our students more about how a business works, especially a jewellery business which is perhaps one of the tougher paths to tread in the current recessionary climate. After all, we are sadly not an essential in a recession and we have all observed many businesses closing down, creating ghost-like high streets.

Many of the students that we have interviewed appear to have good technical skills. Some have great drawing skills and a knowledge of how to use whizzy computer design programmes. However few of them have the capacity to sell themselves at an interview or know how to approach selling their work.

I cannot attest to be an expert at knowing all the modules in a university design course but surely one of the important things to arm a student with apart from their portfolio is the wherewithal to earn a crust. Is there a practical module on how to look for a job? Or how to arm yourself with the correct information to go to an interview?

Students who are reading this – and you should be at least reading this magazine if you wish to go into the jewellery business – may I recommend doing a bit of research on the company you are going to see. What do they make, how do they make it? Look at their designs, look at their website. How about reading where the company is situated – can you get there in a sensible time frame? Be informed and remember the jobs go to the enthusiast not the feint hearted.
 

 

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