How can the industry best capitalise on youth and give opportunities to young talent in the industry?

According to the IPA Census 2011 the average age of those working in member agencies is 33 years old. Additionally, a 19.2% increase, year on year, in first-year trainees suggests that the industry is getting younger. We need to ensure that age is not valued higher than contribution in order to level the playing field between enthusiasm and experience. The industry is providing a wealth of experience for young talent, however, we have outlined three areas to better provide the right opportunities to attract and retain the right candidates to the advertising and media industry.

There is a clear gap in progression from entry level to more senior level; people are becoming disconnected as the hierarchical structure becomes harder to navigate. Employees do not necessarily want to job-hop, but in order to avoid the best talent getting enticed by higher pay and more satisfying roles elsewhere, agencies need to make roles more engaging and more of an enriching experience. Arena Media recognise that new starters should be exposed to the business much more broadly and can build relationships across the agency as they progress. This will also avoid young people developing a myopic view of the business. Taking this a step further, Jody Shilliday, Associate Director of Social Ads, Starcom MediaVest Group says that ‘agencies need to be willing to invest in youth, not just financially, but with time and trust’. From PHD’s perspective, Anjali Ramachandran, Head of Innovation suggests that this can be achieved by allocating  ‘mentors who take the time to sit down and chat with them regularly…providing feedback on their work so they can learn and grow’.

Beyond creating an immediately engaging environment to hold onto their talent, there is a disconnect between how the industry values entrepreneurial responsibility and how youthful freedom is regarded. Agencies have an opportunity to encourage the spirit of entrepreneurship that naturally attracts talent beyond only those that are appealing to bloated grad schemes. Squared student, Sandra Canrom, International Account Executive, OMD International, explains that ‘entrepreneurship is the motivation for the young generation, maybe if scope was given to young people to do this within their role, a sense of ownership and responsibility would follow’. Giving young people a degree of freedom to develop their ideas and feel comfortable in failure is key for learning and necessary to drive innovation forward.  Mark Runacus, Senior Partner, Crayon supports this in saying ‘we should all embrace failure, but in a risk-managed way’. Using the agency environment to structure rather than reject this youthful enthusiasm and passionate curiosity would push young talent in agencies to build creative confidence. Squared students at MEC suggest that there ‘should be a 70-20-10 split of their time, 70% to your core role, 20% to related tasks, 10% to play and innovate’. This structure for closing the disconnect between the industry values and the innovative mindset should be regarded in order to best capitalise on youth.

It is clear that agencies agree with the notion that they are better off working together to promote the industry rather than simply promoting the individual agencies. If collaboration to raise awareness amongst prime candidates is agreed upon, where can they be found? Agencies currently mine for talent in traditional places, often hiring in their own shadow – an uncreative way to enhance the younger element of the business. Many agencies agree that targeting school leavers with apprenticeship schemes is an appropriate way to reach out to a broader pool of candidates.  It is the budding entrepreneurs and digital natives who would rather start a business than pursue higher education  that the industry is yearning for. Agency heads may look at the over subscription for graduate jobs and think awareness is not the issue, but there is work to be done to reach out to the graduates who have studied in fields of academia outside of Marketing Communications, let alone a new generation of hungry, young Zuckerbergs.

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