Leading from the Front

“People get stuck in a rut and they hire from the same types of places. All we’re doing is broadening people’s minds,” says Alexandria Dauley, co-founder of United in Design alongside Sophie Ashby (both pictured above). The pair of interior designers set up the charity to address the lack of diversity in the interiors industry, and have a presence in the Design Avenue at Focus/21 as a House Guest.

United in Design acts as a bridge between design businesses and recent graduates in interior design and interior architecture. It has set up an apprenticeship programme where graduates take a paid post at four different practices for three months at a time, opening doors to new opportunities and providing that critical first step on the career ladder that can be hard to find.

As Dauley explains, businesses want to be an ally in the mission to make the design industry more democratic and inclusive, but they often don’t know where to start. “We’ve had a lot more sign-ups this week,” she reports, explaining the benefits of becoming a mentor: “It gives people access to a swathe of new talent, opening up a recruitment stream that they might not typically have found.”

The first five apprentices are half-way through the very first programme, and there are plans to expand, hence United in Design’s presence at the show, raising awareness for both sides of the scheme, graduates and businesses alike. Dauley says that she is “hugely optimistic” about the future, and the idea is so simple that the only question is why such a scheme hasn’t been done before.