What do plumbing and media have in common? Both are industries whose output is more valuable than ever before. And both suffer from a pool of skilled practitioners that cannot keep pace with demand.
It's a challenge across the economy. As the British economy begins to recover, one of its key limiting factors is the skills gap in manufacturing, engineering and technology. And genuine media skills are an important part of that picture.
Media convergence is having profound effects on every category of the economy. Understanding it is an imperative not just for media agencies, but also for publishers, technology companies, creative agencies, retailers and public services.
But the pool of skilled practitioners isn't keeping pace with demand. As an industry we need to start taking this requirement more seriously, ensuring that we are growing the pool of holistic and diverse media talent that we need – because ultimately the enduring value of our organisations will depend upon it.
It was heartening to see that of The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For, four were media agencies (including Carat). Agency leaders know that skilled media practitioners have plenty of choices, and unless we create a challenging, dynamic and empowering environment for them, we won’t retain them nor be able to fulfil our visions for our businesses.
The next generation of media experts are polymaths and entrepreneurs, and we have to create an environment that meets their expectations.
As an industry we need to look hard at the talent pool, and begin to work more proactively to grow it – not just within but beyond our own organisations.
Which brings us back to plumbing.
The skills gap in plumbing stretches decades, and whilst it hasn’t been resolved, the picture has definitely become significantly brighter. Three key strategies have created this momentum:
- Bringing in people from non-trade backgrounds, e.g. the Armed Forces
- Attracting and retaining new types of people – specifically women
- Drawing people from new geographies
- Proactively offering education within schools and universities
All of these are paths that lie ahead for the media industry. We need to give more thought to under-represented social groups in our industry, and to creating an appropriate home for a more diverse talent base to ensure they stay in the industry.
We need to consider the accelerating convergence skills arising in other markets, like Poland, where the industry is moving at a pace that we don’t see in the UK.
There's been a huge export industry – it's time to start importing too. As an industry, we need to help to grow modern business literacy, underpinned by genuine understanding of the emerging media landscape. This is a path that begins in school and leads into our organisations – we are responsible for making it clear and easy to walk.
The skills gap could be a big problem in the future. But it's a missed opportunity right now. We need to address it to ensure the future value of what we do.
Matthew Hook is managing director at Dentsu Aegis Network's Carat