|dc.description.abstract||What motivates students to study fashion design? What employment opportunities are there in the fashion design industry for fashion graduates? These are some of the core questions raised in this thesis. Fashion design is a highly competitive and economically lucrative industry, and in response, a growing number of vocational and academic fashion education programmes are available. This is resulting in an increasing number of fashion design graduates competing for a limited number of positions in the industry. An example of a contemporary vocational fashion training institute in New Zealand is the New Zealand Institute of Fashion and Technology (NZIFT), where the author was employed and witnessed the challenges graduates faced when seeking employment.
Fashion aesthetics are constantly changing - the silhouettes, shapes, colours and textures, and the way in which we put pieces together. Therefore, the way in which fashion is envisioned, produced and manufactured is also evolving. To reflect these changes, the topics, technical skills and teaching methods should also evolve. Fashion graduates need to be flexible, skilled and have the ability to influence changes in the industry. Many students are attracted to the fashion industry because of its glamorous portrayal in the media, this, in turn creates expectations of what they are to become and their employment opportunities in the industry. This research explores the recent experiences of fashion design graduates. It identifies what motivates students to undertake study in fashion design, their expectations of what a career in fashion design could offer, and the realities of their subsequent employability. The research finds that the majority of NZIFT fashion graduates developed confidence in themselves through the skills they learnt while studying. They also developed skills and knowledge, acquired both directly and indirectly, which gave them the confidence to study elsewhere and to take up employment in an entirely different field. A minority of graduates found work in the fashion industry which they thoroughly enjoy and remain in today. Key findings from the research indicate a growing gap in the expectations of students, educators, and industry which contributes to challenges for students gaining employment after graduation. Results also revealed that students are attracted to study fashion design for a variety of reasons including personal interest, autonomy in career trajectory, incidental endeavour, family influence, the reputation and the proximity of the school, and an expectation of fulfilling employment. While the majority of those who took part in the study said they were satisfied with the quality of their programme, they also expressed concern about gaining employment after graduation. After completing the programme, some graduates reported working in unrelated sectors, and the small number who managed to obtain jobs in the fashion industry described challenges in maintaining their jobs, partly due to difficulties meeting employer expectations. The study’s implications section suggests a way forward that would involve bridging the gap between students, educators, and industry expectations, including the transformation of curriculum and pedagogical approaches in fashion design schools. An improved future state would also require continuous assessment of the changing dynamics of the fashion industry and an update to fashion design school’s curricula. In order to better prepare fashion design graduates to thrive in the complex fashion design industry, fashion design schools will need to organise and strengthen apprenticeships and on the job training. This will prepare students for challenging careers in the volatile fashion design industry. Being able to draw from real life situations gives a real context to student’s learning experiences. This facilitates better transitions into work, ultimately supporting employment retention and an enriched career. However, the workforce must also be ready for this change and be willing to take on and nurture fashion design apprentices and provide on the job training. An increase in apprenticeships would be beneficial for both students and industry as students would be obtaining on-the-job training and the workforce would be gaining moldable, willing employees that would be obliged to remain with them for a number of years to finish their apprenticeship or on-the-job training.||