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Giving Interior Design Students Real World Experience

Photo of interior design student Sara Levitas
Live Styling 2017 winner Sara Levitas (middle) with Anna McRae, Brand/Creative Director at Molmic, and Angela Patsoura, Brand/Marketing Coordinator at Molmic

A graduate’s biggest hurdle to employment is often experience. How do you get a job without it? And, how do you get it without a job? It’s the Catch-22 that can stump the best students.

Motivated to solve this conundrum, the teachers at Melbourne Polytechnic’s interior design department changed the rules of their LiveStyling interior design competition this year.

Starting in the early months of the academic year, students were briefed to create an interior design office space with the winning design to be realised through a live build at the old Prahran Mechanic’s Institute shopfront on High Street.

And, the best part for all graduating students is that they can now use the space for real-life consulting work over the next year.

This presents a rare opportunity for students to gain industry experience facilitated by Melbourne Polytechnic, but it is not the only benefit of the competition, according to design teacher, Linda Bistricic.

One of the aims of the competition is to give all the students experience of a live build: “We bring the entire group down every week to see, ‘oh the painters doing this’ or ‘the electricians doing the wiring’. They get a taste of a live job.”

While only one student gets to see their design fully realised, all the students benefit from interacting with the build and the consulting work.

Linda says employers like to see that graduates have experience, but the competitive nature of the industry makes it hard to find: “So, it's one way of building it into the program… to put [students] in the best position to succeed.”

Winner Sara Levitas sees her Interior Design transformed into reality

As the winner of LiveStyling this year, Sara Levitas has seen her design transform into a bricks-and-mortar reality, an experience not many budding interior designers get to have so early in their career.  

“Basically, we were given this project of creating a modern interior design office for students to work in,” says Sara.

“The brief basically was: make it as contemporary as possible, try to incorporate sustainable materials... and you know I think there was a lot of free rein in terms of the creativity.”

The project excited Sara, but it was something she would have been nervous about just a few months earlier.

Sara started the Diploma of Interior Design and Decoration with a passion for creating warm and happy spaces for her family, but with no real-world experience.

But she found her confidence growing after the first year, with the encouragement and constructive critique of her teachers.

For her, it was the hands-on experience she needed: “[The course] is very practical, it's not like, theory, theory, theory, and I guess that’s the difference between a TAFE and university programs, there is that practical element and for me that was important.”

Industry partnerships are a key part of Live Styling

Industry partner John Eussen also played a big role in getting the competition up and running by engaging sponsors.

He says this competition is special because a lot of other schools are not doing this type of thing: “My role is to connect industry with education… I do an independent competition and it'll be the eighth year in February, I work with 12 universities around Australia and they don’t do this.”

He says it's a win-win for the industry as they’ll be able to employ students with real industry experience and they’ll actually be able to use the new shopfront at Prahran Mechanic’s Institute, too.

“This is a space we want industry to use and show product. There are some Sydney companies that have sponsored this, that don’t actually have Melbourne premises, so, we want them to use this space, as well.”

The icing on the cake for Sara will be three pages of editorial space devoted to the project across several design magazine titles, including a feature in Home Living magazine.

Our Diploma of Interior Design and Decoration is flexible and offers students the industry experience they need to get job-ready. 

Interior Design at Melbourne Polytechnic

Interior Design and Decoration courses offers the industry experience you need to get job-ready.

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