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Ad bodies respond to ‘desperate shortage’ of digital skills in light of UK budget leak

Ad bodies respond to ‘desperate shortage’ of digital skills in light of UK budget leak
Written by publishing team

Responses to the UK budget leaks have varied, but one element lacking in detail is how the government plans to tackle the digital skills gap, beyond fluctuations around investment. Advertising bodies DMA, AA and MRS suggested it could ramp up to train the next generation of marketers in response to the budget.

The skills gap is particularly acute in the marketing industry, which has been known to have had difficulty attracting young practitioners Especially through non-traditional channels. The gap is especially growing now with the UK facing a mass exodus of talent due to Brexit and the ongoing horrific effects of the pandemic on growth, especially for small and medium businesses.

Chris Compal is CEO of the Data and Marketing Association (DMA). “Marketing has been at the forefront of digital business transformation for many years,” he says. The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically accelerated society’s reliance on digital media and consumer habits have changed accordingly.

“Therefore, there is a hugely increased demand for professionals with digital skills to interact with them.”

He says companies are having a “big problem” finding talent equipped with these skills due to poor availability.

To solve this problem, a number of the UK’s leading marketing associations are proposing that the government allocate “a portion of the growing funding of the National Skills Fund… to industry-led qualifications to help fill thousands of immediate job opportunities.”

“Government is missing a massive opportunity to reduce the massive digital skills gaps that exist across the economy, and a specific budget should be allocated to trade association qualifications,” Compal says. “Trade and professional bodies are best suited to help with their strong industry relationships and understanding the skills employers need most.”

“All these qualifications are developed by employers for employers. Crucially, these employers have the jobs that need to be filled immediately and they trust the quality of training provided by their industry association.”

Beyond the young talents

In addition to simply aiming to hone the skills of younger entrants to the industry, the plan that has been put in place will also aim to encourage people from other sectors to turn their talents into advertising and marketing.

Jane Frost CBE, CEO of the Market Research Society (MRS), says: “The recovery and growth of the research sector is being jeopardized by a shortage of skills. Companies in our sector, especially SMEs, are priced in a bidding war for talent. The need to solve this problem is immediate. Rehabilitation of older workers is also vital. Associations like us do not need to consult employers about their needs or learn about the market, because employers are our members.”

Stephen Woodford, CEO of the Advertising Association (AA), adds: “There is an acute shortage of digital marketing and advertising talent. AA research shows that £1 spent on advertising generates £6 of GDP. For this investment to work, it is critical that Digital marketers know how to plan a campaign, define the right channel strategy, and can create compelling content that attracts their customers.”

The government has committed to investing in T-levels and other forms of education in the latest budget, although higher education centers and experts have said the UK is still turning its wheels and losing ground when it comes to skills development.

Temporary funding for sector-specific skills development, of the kind suggested by DMA and others, would be one potential solution to widening the skills gap. As Amsterdam and other marketing hubs seek to capitalize on the impact of Brexit on skills, a scheme like this may be one such solution.

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