Singapore may be the only nation that has an award under the auspice of the Head of State.

The President’s Design Award is presented each year in this island state (and yes, the President does turn up). Never mind that it seems to be the architects who get most of the awards, it is an indication of the seriousness of the Government in promoting the design industry. It set up DesignSingapore in 2003 to promote design while other bodies encourage the arts. This is a far cry from the seventies and eighties and even nineties when Designers Association of Singapore struggled to survive (even to this day, I am told they do not get financial support). Certainly local design firms had to fight to get recognition and acceptance as professionals. Now there is an opportunity to shake the President’s hand and get on national television!

This week the Singapore Workforce Development Agency gave another boost to the creative industries by signing a MOU with 21 companies and two trade associations. The WDA helps train workers and a few years ago turned its attention to the creative sector. People already working can attend courses which upgrade their skills. Companies are encouraged to send staff by sizeable subsidies to the course fees. These used to be as high as 90% but this was reduced last year but it is still enough that money would not be an issue to any company.

The only hiccup I can see is that there are not enough qualified (by the WDA) developers with experience in the creative industry to create courses. It isn’t an easy task. I know because I am one. The second hurdle is getting trainers, who apart from also gaining a WDA qualification, need to excel in their profession and be a good teacher. Finding all three is not going to be easy for any of the selected training companies. A good film director or experienced copywriter is not going to be attracted by the hourly rates currently offered to trainers.

Let’s face it, salaries are high in the creative industries for anyone with more than 10 year’s experience (a minimum, I would say, to have worthwhile knowledge to pass on to students). Hopefully, there will be a few old boys like me who have not lost their marbles and can still contribute!

The fact that we have a President’s Design Award to reward designers at the top of their game and a scheme to further train and upgrade creative staff shows a country can do much promote and establish itself as a design hub. Singapore deserves a pat on the back.