The UK digital industry must attract the right people to fulfil its potential

Natalie Gross, chief executive at Amaze
Natalie Gross, chief executive at Amaze

A key driver for growth, the digital sector is one of a handful of booming industries in the UK. However, it suffers from a skills gap across the board, which has an impact not only on agencies' resources but also the future success of the industry.

It has been evident for at least two decades which direction the digital industry is heading in, yet the government has failed to identify the need for the huge numbers of diversely skilled people required to fulfil this country’s digital potential.

To date, educational and work-related programmes have failed to bring forward those with the right talent to keep our industry moving forwards.

Responsibility now needs to fall to senior marketers to try to make this happen.

Why? Well, we as individuals have the knowhow, as well as knowledge of the varying roles needed across the industry to help it thrive.

Senior marketers should use this experience to help deal with this crisis and find out-of-the-box solutions, working with future talent as well as helping highly skilled professionals retrain.

Rather than just shouting about the skills gap, senior marketers should use their profile to help raise awareness of our industry and ensure that change happens.

Our industry is extremely exciting and rewarding, and we need to showcase this to make certain there is enough awareness and desire to be part of it. 

There is also a moral commitment and desire among my peers to narrow the skills gap and encourage more people into our industry. This is evident in the recent rise in internships, apprenticeships, graduate programmes and ties with higher-education establishments, for example.

So what should we do?

First, we can make sure people are aware and understand what the digital industry is and why a career in it would be so rewarding. A recent study by BIMA (survey sample 1091 young people between the ages of 14 and 16) found that only 36% had any understanding of what the digital industry is/does. Clearly there is work to do.

BIMA’s D-Day – where 100 agencies across the UK go into schools to set digital challenges and educate and inspire future talent – is one fantastic way of getting into the classroom and educating the next generation on the opportunities that working in digital can bring.

Second, we should be looking at how we can find better ways of collaborating with training providers, educational establishments, the government and funding providers.

We are at a point now where the government is providing funding to address these issues. However, as it is so hard to navigate the complicated landscape that currently exists, we need to make sure it is as easy as possible to allow the maximum number of people access to funding and that good use is made of it.

Lastly, we can and should commit at grass-roots level for more direct and immediate impact. We all have limited time, so picking one or two initiatives to get behind is important. In addition to the graduate scheme Amaze launched last year, we are now working with a new Studio School with a specialist digital agenda, where we support curriculum design, providing placements and working with students on project work to support the development of digitally T-shaped individuals.

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