Industry Issues: Are we attracting talent to the marketing industry?

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Industry Issues: Are we attracting enough talent to the marketing industry?


There are currently a number of key challenges facing the marketing industry, from data privacy legislation and customer engagement, to the environmental impact of industry practices. The DMA Group are committed to helping our members and the wider marketing industry identify and raise awareness to these issues - so that we can work towards finding solutions as a community.

Careers advice given to students during their education is essential for guiding them towards the professional world. At present, there is a notable difference in the knowledge and accessibility of careers advice in different industries. Traditional careers like medicine or law, have routes into industry that are clearly defined before an aspirational student embarks on them. Yet when it comes to more creative fields like data and marketing, advice and understanding is scarce.
Unidays recently spoke to 8,405 students aged 18–24 and found that more than half (51%) believe marketing was ‘never’ or ‘hardly ever’ mentioned at their school, with just 1% reporting that marketing was talked about ‘a lot’ during their school days. Alarmingly, only 3% thought of marketing as a good career option. These statistics are a huge concern considering marketing is one of the most important functions in the business world. Above all, it suggests we are missing a huge opportunity to attract the best talent to the industry.
This is unusual for an industry that is thriving in its use of the latest technology, has a willingness to adopt new media channels (that are typically used by millennials), and is at the heart of a new era of customer engagement. Perhaps this is due to a lack of understanding of what marketers actually do in a day-to-day capacity? The advent of forums like the Student Room show us that young people have had to take it upon themselves to source advice and share experience about getting into the careers they want to pursue. Without the industry taking the initiative, this situation will only deteriorate.
Aspiring marketers lack clarity in the expectations of prospective employers and the skills they need to get a career in marketing. The industry needs to articulate and forecast the skills and qualifications that they will need in young people for future roles in data and marketing. At present, there is a skills gap in the industry. The IDM’s upcoming Professional skills census research, due to be published in the coming weeks, identifies some important differences between the skills marketers currently employ in their roles to the perceived skills they require for future career progression, with key skills gaps found that many marketers believe need to be addressed - look out for more information about this on the DMA and IDM websites soon.
Access to a decent role in marketing shouldn’t always require a degree, but why does this tend to be a prerequisite for so many junior marketing roles? For those who don’t pursue the university route, a career in marketing may be more of a challenge with such requirements. Additionally, a graduate’s potential is often judged by the reputation of the university or institution, especially when they lack experience in the industry. There are many different types of qualifications that can be earned from a variety of educational institutions. However, a well-defined route into marketing does not exist - there is no structure in place. The current options for 16-19 year olds are as follows:
Academic route: A-levels and university; there is no current marketing A-level available
Apprenticeships: this includes degree apprenticeships
Straight to industry: very limited in scope and availability
Starting salaries are another area of concern. Industry salary benchmarks are essential to ensure it is well-known that talent and excellence are rewarded in the marketing industry. New research by CV-Library suggests Digital marketing degree holders can expect a starting salary between £18,000–£22,000. In comparison, starting salaries for qualified teachers range from £22,917 to £28,660 for London-based positions, and the most competitive law firms can offer starting salaries between £22,000 and £45,000. Career-specific qualifications can clearly help towards earning a higher wage.
The problems are not only extant among aspiring marketers. There is a mismatch of expectations between students and employers. Employers are increasingly frustrated with the lack of awareness—and thus preparedness—amongst this group. What’s more, even when aspiring workers have gone through education relevant to the marketing industry, their lack of real-world experience is considered a problem. The development of soft skills, i.e. public speaking and creative writing, and the ability to put theory into practice is considered vital for helping to achieve professional standards.
What needs to change and what can we do to help?
Evidently, aspiring marketers need access to relevant qualifications and hands-on experience to bolster their understanding and progression into the data and marketing industry. We know, for example, that those who are exposed to work experience in school are much more likely to gain employment. This is supported by research compiled by Education and Employers which found that young people are 86% less likely to be NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) and earn 18% more after four or more employment encounters1. Nonetheless, according to a recent survey by the Careers and Enterprise Company, only 40% of the secondary schools surveyed were offering the required amount of work encounters to students2.
Cross-industry collaboration is needed between the public and private sectors - the marketing industry, education providers and government (local and central) all have a role to play. Any changes need to be reflected in education policy and used to guide educational institutions in their teaching. The meeting of Gatsby benchmarks should go some way in providing skills experience for school-aged children, but this is by no means a silver bullet. The government is currently forwarding their programme of T-levels which aim to provide vocational alternatives to A-levels. However, if these will suit the needs of the data and marketing industry is yet to be discovered.
Industry investment and action is crucial. That’s why, on the 14th of June, the DMA Council Chair’s Day had talent at the top of the agenda. The concerns above were echoed by the group, many of which are senior figures in the marketing community, and there was a desire to develop schemes to aid aspiring marketers. There were a number of suggestions based around the need for the marketing industry to engage schools more proactively - to increase awareness and enthusiasm about a career in marketing and data, and to identify the key skills needed for the modern marketer – so future talent is equipped with the tools and mind-set for a career in this industry.
DMA Talent is determined to develop a structured framework for aspiring marketers and prospective employers to operate within. We are encouraging talented people from all backgrounds to seek careers in the marketing and data industry, it's not just those who intend to attend university but those who have a creative and analytical mind-set, and a passion for marketing. As an industry, we have to invest in providing information, training and guidance to increase awareness at crucial times in education when young people are making decisions about their future. We have to be really clear about what the career opportunity is and what you need to do to get on the ladder.
1) Education and Employers 2017 survey findings -
2) The Careers and Enterprise Company ‘State of the Nation 2017’ report -
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