Alison Smith remembers feeling overwhelmed in her first job.
“When I got my first job, I couldn’t believe the pace,” the co-director of Pumphouse School of Design said.
“Six months later, of course, I was up to speed, but at first it seemed impossible. All my design friends said the same thing: ‘I wish someone had prepared me for that’”.
With this in mind, Pumphouse was founded in 2015 by a collective of Newcastle graphic designers, creatives and design teachers.
“Colleagues in the creative industries were always telling us about graduates they'd interviewed who were smart and knowledgable, but lacked coalface skills.
“So, at Pumphouse, we wanted to create an environment which challenged students to lift their game and develop. The course material is written to simulate design studio briefs, and the teachers are more like mentors,” Ms Smith said.
For instance, one course features the ‘Studio Challenge’ where students are required to deal with a flurry of different jobs simultaneously, all with steep deadlines. Students also learn practical skills such as time-management, invoicing, and client interaction.
“We’ve had students tell us they learned more in a single day than ever before, and they went home exhausted but happy,” Ms Smith said.
Pumphouse also offers short courses and workshops for people wanting specific skills without having to commitment to full time education.
Ms Smith said one of the benefits offered by Pumphouse is that teachers are also practicing professionals.
“We’re all born and bred locals, we all own businesses and enjoy long-standing respect in the Newcastle creative community. We know all the local studios and agencies. We participate in industry events and work hard on our contacts and business relationships which we draw upon to give our students a doorway into the industry.
“We are industry professionals who teach, as well as design teachers. The value is that most of us have also taught in design or creative areas for many years.”
Another difference is that Pumphouse does not offer accredited courses.
“In our experience, employers just want skilled people. They want staff who can hit the ground running. And that’s why our courses have industry-focused outcomes rather than qualifications,” Ms Smith said.
“Being non-accredited, we are able to be quite flexible and responsive to demand, for example we offer custom one-on-one and small group training, and are always looking for new courses and workshops like the upcoming UX & UI Design course.
“We believe our unique Advanced Design Skills course is a terrific complement to existing TAFE and university qualifications,” she said. Many workshops are also suitable for beginners, such as the Design Foundation course.
While there is no specific selection criteria for workshops and short courses at Pumphouse, for long courses they prefer to interview prospective students and may ask to see a portfolio so the student can be placed at the appropriate training level for their skills.