The Digital Skills Gap is real: How to MIND THE GAP

It’s the year 2015, and I think it’s safe to say…we are living in a ‘digital’ world. As a Digital Marketing Recruiter at clockworkTalent – I see, on a daily basis, the revolution that digital is bringing with it and it is certainly at the forefront of my working and personal life.


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With wearable tech, driver-less cars and contactless payments in high street shops; technology in our day-to-day is becoming more apparent than ever. The digital folk of today, also known as ‘Digital Natives’, are the tech-savvy generation who have grown up with technology readily available to them that they use in their everyday lives – so why is it that a vast majority of these individuals aren’t even aware of what this industry offers in terms of career paths?

It’s been published that an average of 750,000 digital jobs were unfilled last year – equating to £2 Billion in the economy.

According to figures released by the BBC:

Over 12 million people, and a million small businesses in the UK do not have the skills to prosper in the digital era.

But what and ultimately who has the power to introduce change or ‘Best Practice’ when it comes to facing this challenge head on? I’ve seen a lot of e-fingers being pointed in the direction of the government – but should this responsibility be solely in their hands?

In my opinion, no.

Yes, I accept that government funding or even just public support of this notion would certainly help (an example pioneer in this area being Baroness Martha Lane Fox and her doteveryone.org.uk campaign), but it shouldn’t stop there. Surely well established companies and agencies across the world should implement the change they want to see? However it isn’t just government and organisations that have a responsibility – job-seekers and the graduates of tomorrow need to do their bit as well if they are to have their chance…

In the Digital Marketing Recruitment world – we see school leavers, college leavers and even graduates struggle to get their feet on the career ladder – stating that companies/agencies from all sectors wouldn’t even consider their application as they had no field experience – but time and time again we hear jobseekers say; ‘How will I ever conquer the ‘no experience’ issue if no-one will give me a chance?’, and to be honest, I can’t argue with them…but I can give advice.


Having a family member that’s been in the recruitment business for 30+ years, I was told, from a young age, to make smart decisions in extra-curricular activities to get noticed – but make it relevant. When I left college in 2005 and ‘deferred’ my University application for a year (having been accepted by my university of choice for a PR & Communications degree) I knew I couldn’t drop everything to do the typical ‘globe-trotting/travelling for year’ as so many of my fellow classmates did (as much as I would have LOVED to).

Instead, I opted to work for free at a local PR company (full time) – helping out wherever I could and learning as much as possible, watching professionals in action. At the time, I was cursing my decision – watching my Facebook timeline fill with stunning pictures of mates travelling the world, literally having the time of their lives – and here I was, doing a 9-5, 7 days a week, unpaid! But little did I know what was to come…

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After eventually graduating in 2009 (by which time the economic crisis was in full swing and unemployment had reached 2.47m – a record high for 14 years at the time) it was time to bite the bullet, after 3 years as a student, and find my first career job. However, it became apparent that having a relevant degree to what someone actually wanted to do in their career…wasn’t enough. 85% of my graduating class struggled to get work in general after leaving University, let alone a job in their chosen area of study. However, for me, it was different. I started applying to a number of PR/Marketing related jobs before I had even officially graduated, to get ahead of all the other thousands of students graduating at the same time, all of whom would be applying for the minimal amount of job openings at the time.

However, it wasn’t the timing of my applications that landed me my first career job – it was my unpaid work experience. It would seem the hard, unpaid slog had indeed…paid off. If I could offer any advice to the students of today – it is do everything possible to get ahead. If you can’t afford to work for free, perhaps offer to do the odd day or task on an adhoc basis – it could be anything – but make sure it’s relevant to what you want to do and do it to the best of your ability!

So with a huge skill gap in the digital industry looming…what can companies do to tackle this problem?
Ronan Dunne, Chief Executive of O2, has made three recommendations in a report for both businesses and government:

  • Improve awareness of Digital as a career path for young people
  • Offer greater support for delivery of Digital education in schools
  • Increase engagement in Digital skills exchange programmes to encourage small businesses to offer work experience for young people

In-house training and development, apprenticeships and work experience is going to be like gold dust to the jobseekers of tomorrow if they are to have a chance to flourish in the digital industry and in the long run, boost the economy. Over the past year we have seen more employers within digital agencies and brands adopting this method. And it’s working. But more businesses need to think the same way if we are to deal with this issue in the long term.

Compare the cost of an experienced candidate with a graduate (plus their training & development) – the costs are pretty much equal. However, that entry-level individual has now been given the opportunity to start their professional life…and that company will have a hand in moulding them, giving them the tools to be successful…surely that is something to be proud of?

An example company championing this approach is Barclays. Their Digital Eagles initiative was set up to provide the skills and tools needed to help people (staff and customers alike) understand the digital landscape better, whether it’s tablet training for the elderly (Tea and Teach), coding for kids (Code Playground), or building on general Internet Skills – all this helps bridge the skills gap within the industry. Check out their video:

 

If you need advice in how to progress to the next step or you’re on the other side of the fence and trying to find talent in this ever evolving industry – get in contact with clockworkTalent , connect with me on LinkedIn, Follow me/us on Twitter and like our Facebook page. We live, eat and breathe digital!

 

Laura Waddington

 

Posted in Blog Posts, Job Seeking, Recruitment |

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