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Act quick to bridge the future skills gap

Act quick to bridge the future skills gap
Mark Bell, Experience Planning Director at Dare, discusses the future skills gap in advertising and how the industry needs to tackle it.

When Dave Buonaguidi said the advertising world lacks creativity because agencies are now owned by corporations whose primary objective is to make money, he was spot on.

We’re failing to attract the next generation of creative talent because we’re more focused on making money, when the reality is we should be capable of doing both; making money and attracting top class talent.

There’s a growing skills gap in adland, and it means we’re failing to recruit the digital natives that will enable us to create brilliant work (careers in media and marketing are in the bottom 3% of occupations graduates choose after leaving university - HESA Annual Report 2014).

But it’s not just money that’s a problem, agencies are not flexible enough in their recruitment processes - they rely on luck to find the right people and that luck is running out.

Digital natives are savvy, they want to work where they can build, create, change things and, most importantly, where they can be the best version of themselves.

A week’s work experience is not nearly enough time to entice people into the industry, and those that do spend a week at an agency, often leave with only a vague understanding of how it works and what’s possible, let alone having actually got some work out of the door.

So are any other industries succeeding where we’re not? Are there lessons we can learn?

Dr Tomas Rawlings, leading game designer, thinks so. He has no problem attracting the right talent, because the gaming industry is geared around its personalities and that’s what attracts people to it.

Rawlings also regularly hosts week-long game jams for digital natives - where the participants actually create a game during the course of their week. And, as a result, feel like they’ve achieved something at the end of it.

In the 80s, advertising agency moguls such as the Saatchi brothers were household names, and that alone ensured a steady stream of talented candidates through their revolving doors. So how can we get that level of visibility back?

Will Harvey, of Ogilvy Innovation Labs regularly goes back to his old university, Ravensbourne. He says it’s crucial to build and retain a working relationship with the students, so that once they’ve graduated, Ogilvy is top of their job wish list.

At Dare, we believe recruiting talent should be about the individual not the role. It’s why we’ve got people who have psychology, toy design and political backgrounds. Our CEO is an ex ballerina.

Flexibility is key here. It’s not about a set recruitment process, or graduate scheme. We need to be adaptable and constantly evolve our recruitment processes so that we attract talented individuals, not cookie cutter replicas of a job description we’ve created.

And then when those talented people do walk through our doors, we should make them feel confident and empowered. The future of adland is less about people working in traditional silos and more about bringing together key individuals from different disciplines to learn from each other and create something exciting and unique together.

At JWT the more senior exec team are reverse mentored by digital natives, so they can adapt their processes and practices to the digital natives that are the future. That’s smart.

We can’t change overnight, but we can make a start. And if we do all this, finding and retaining brilliant people might be a little less about luck.

Mark Bell is Experience Planning Director at Dare.

Check out our Talent Hub to see how to become less traditional and more diverse.

Last updated 13/10/2014

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