AS more businesses become aware of the economic benefits of good design, demand for professional design skills are continuing to rise, says Tai Lee Siang, president of the Design Business Chamber Singapore (DBCS).

To cater to the demand, Singapore has seen a proliferation of design schools within the last five years.

Incorporated in 2012, the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) is one of the first in the world to incorporate the art and science of design and technology into a multi-disciplinary curriculum. Today, it has a student population of more than 600, and the numbers are rising.

Apart from SUTD, Singapore's other established universities, the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU), and majority of publicly-funded polytechnics have their own design faculties as well. Private schools, such as Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS) and First Media Design School, offering design courses, have also surged in recent years.

MDIS started its School of Fashion and Design here in 2011 to nurture a new generation of creative professionals, specialising in fashion design, fashion marketing and branding, says R Theyvendran, secretary-general of the MDIS. "We are offering undergraduate programmes together with university partner, Nottingham Trent University, to meet the rising demand for design talent in the global fashion industry."

Ergonomic design, also known as comfort and functional design, has gained in popularity with both the growth of the elderly population and workplace safety requirements. With the public's growing environmental awareness, designers with formal training or experience in green or energy efficient design in particular are expected to enjoy better job prospects. According to the US-based Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES), from 2009 to 2011, there was an 8 per cent increase in base salary for ergonomics professionals.

"With the growth in service industries worldwide, design is also becoming recognised as a mainstream profession - with designers taking on multiple roles including directorships of major corporations," says Mr Tai.

Start-ups, too, are fuelling the surge in demand for design talent. With Singapore's rising status as the Asian magnet for start-ups, an increasing number of start-ups are looking to pay big bucks to find top designers - especially those with the potential to create breakthrough technological innovations.

Given the design emphasis, there are also recommendations for the Singapore government to create low-cost incubators for creative enterprises, by relocating a diverse range of creative enterprises within existing or new creative clusters to locations at Bras Basah, Gillman Village or Mediapolis.

As part of its overall "Professional Development Programme", the DBCS aims to inculcate the value of design among the young, especially those from pre-tertiary and tertiary schools, by inspiring and encouraging students to be designers of our future.

DBCS works with both public and private organisations to support the national objective of building strong professional design competencies and capabilities in Singapore. It provides opportunities to budding designers by linking schools to industry through internships, mentorship programmes and industry attachments so that they can have first-hand experience of real-life workplace expectations and challenges.

Earlier this year in March, DBCS signed collaborative memoranda of understanding with three leading design schools in Singapore - MDIS School of Fashion and Design, Nanyang Polytechnic School of Design and Raffles College of Higher Education. The signing ceremony was held at the launch of Singapore's inaugural Design Business Summit. "Going forward, more tie-ups with schools and industry will be sealed. Scholarships and increased government funding for design education are expected to draw even more talent in the coming years," says Mr Tai.