Designers, we need to care for our young.

Almost every company in our field is hiring a designer right now. However, finding the right designer is an agonizing process. We are unique in this poor economy in that we have more positions open than qualified individuals to fill those positions.

There are not enough of us. And it’s our own fault.

New designers have it hard

Undergraduate courses in web design are anachronistic remnants of what the web once was, and never will be again. They rely on outdated techniques instead of teaching the foundations that help prepare students for a constantly evolving environment. As a result, graduates leave unprepared for the modern web.

Unable to find entry level full-time jobs, many young designers enter the field as contractors and freelancers. This is a toxic environment for new designers, who do not yet know how to handle clients, protect themselves, and earn what they are worth. Young designers undervalue themselves, and are constantly persuaded to create more for less.

What do we do? We sit back and watch as our young are taken advantage of, underpaid, abused. Sometimes, we are the abusers.

It needs to stop.

We can do better

Internships aren’t enough. We need apprentices, and apprentices need mentors.

If your company is hiring entry-level designers, you need to devote the time and effort required to adequately mentor them. Pay them fairly. Give junior designers a solid framework for success, and be clear about how success is measured. Give them room to fail, and teach them not to fear failure. When they fail, help them see why they failed, and let them fix it.

If you are a successful senior designer looking to give back to the design community, consider mentoring a younger designer in your spare time.Find a local designer in your community and offer to go over their work with them every now and then. Give them career advice. If they are being mistreated, speak up. Encourage them to value their time and abilities.

Steps in the right direction

More companies and organizations are stepping up to train our next generation of designers. Here in Boston, both Fresh Tilled Soil and thoughtbot offer structured, paid apprenticeships for junior designers to gain real world experience and receive individual mentorship.

Accelerator programs such as Startup Institute might even be replacing college as an option for young people looking to enter the web industry. Startup Institute offers real experience through collaboration with local startups.

Let’s work together to create a web where we nurture our young. Our entire industry will benefit.

Originally posted on Medium.

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