Shaping the WIL Vision Creating and sustaining WIL relationships Fostering WIL engagement Communicating and influencing Driving organisational outcomes WIL Context

The WIL Leadership Framework

WIL Leadership Vignette 16:

Interior Design and Decoration Mentor Program



Associate Professor Suzie Attiwill
RMIT University

What was learned from this:

  • An understanding of business practices and how these 'work' for their particular mentor/business
  • Students learn and apply a range of professional work attitudes and workplace practices and document their experiences
  • The need for flexible working arrangements to accommodate changing work experiences and conditions.

Context of the event, experience or activity:

The VET Diploma of Interior Design and Decoration has developed and maintained a rich and longstanding relationship with industry professionals through a unique and flexible Mentor Program established with the SIDA organisation (Society of Interior Designers of Australia) 22 years ago. It is now incorporated into the professional association of the DIA (Design Institute of Australia), where the Mentor Program simultaneously enriches learning and professional awareness for students and the nourishment of the interiors and decoration industry generally.

Description of the event, experience or activity:

The program's annual launch brings together industry professionals, students, invited guests and program teaching staff in a workplace environment, reinforcing the value of the connectivity between education and industry. This is a special night where students meet their mentors and exchange dreams and plans. Staff mix with their professional counterparts and become, for a short while, part of the annual catch up and industry changes that have been occurring. Seeing their students transformed fleetingly into fledgling decorators and designers aiming to impress their mentors is inspirational. We now find industry partners are really keen to offer their showroom for the following year – a great buzz and a truly connected atmosphere prevails.

Forty-five to fifty students are matched annually, where possible with their specialised area of interest for one day a week for a minimum of 10 weeks. This arrangement is flexible and can be massaged to suit individual situations and needs. The program increasingly leads to employment for graduates, either directly as a result of their experience with their mentor, or through word of mouth when industry is seeking to employ a graduate promoting a win / win situation for all concerned.


  • Connects RMIT to urban business and industry and promotes the program as one of the most sought after in the state
  • Adds ongoing credibility and validity to the vocational outcomes of the program
  • Students gain valuable insight into their proposed career and can critically evaluate their choices in relation to eventual destinations
  • Students are motivated by this 'real life' engagement with the profession and develop connections they will use later
  • Students' communication and interpersonal skills are increased – they feel more confident about approaching future potential employers as their knowledge of how the industry works increases.

Associate Professor Suzie Attiwill is Deputy Dean Learning and Teaching in the School of Architecture and Design, College of Design and Social Context at RMIT University.





Last Update: 23 April, 2014
Reference: Page 30