A report this week ‘reveals’ that school leavers are lacking work place skills. Shocking isn’t it? Or rather, shocking that in two years since an almost identical report was published we’ve failed to do anything about it.
It’s starting to feel like reality is a little too close to what could make for the storyline of Charlie Brooker’s next Black Mirror episode or what Stephen Hawking feared – our technology becoming so intelligent, more human than humans, that it re-programs itself and takes over our lives… or at least our jobs and careers. Ok, a scary and somewhat unrealistic thought, but the point I’m trying to make, is that with technology and AI now in such an advanced place, how come we’re we still struggling with how to boil an egg?
"80% of young people require significant training once they are hired." So, enter stage right, our newly appointed prime minister to come to the rescue with her plans for ‘educational reform’. Will she then be championing better opportunities for students through vocational training? Brilliant! Oh, except she’s not. Instead she’s going to create more grammar schools that focus on a structured path to academia, bound by all rules and constraints that weed out the daydreamers, the odd ones out, the loners and ones who don’t fit in – Well they might not fit into a bank or a law firm but our industry is exactly where those odd shapes do fit… Not only that, they excel. Advertising has never needed them more.
And this is why I feel that it’s down to us, as a creative industry, to lead the way with our own reform in a way that then inspires other sectors outside of advertising to do the same. Those I’ve worked with, know one thing I’m passionate about – apart from cycling up hills and marmots – is this… the vocational aspect of education and real life skills and training affects our industry more than most. Let’s face it we’ve not been the best as an industry to open our doors and encourage talented individuals outside of the white, middle-class grad demographic – this needs to change.
"80% of young people require significant training once they are hired"
One of the biggest challenges faced certainly by the senior agency creatives that span many of the best agencies across the industry on our board is "Where or how do we recruit new talent that has the skills required to carry out the all-important relationship building role? or demonstrate that wonderful lack of restraint that is required to develop the raw creativity that our industry is built on?" This is exactly why, in order to futureproof Britain’s creative thumbprint, instead of pointing fingers at the government and educational establishments or bemoaning the lack of creative talent that they’re producing, our industry, as a collective, needs to take up the reigns and champion the unrivalled opportunities and values that a career inside our industry can offer to this country’s youth. Most of them may not have a clue that these opportunities even exist as a possibility.
Many companies adopt a token diversity policy in order to keep up with the fast changing world we live in, but what is actually being put into effect?
We need to pro-actively reach out to the more artistically minded individuals and articulate the many points of entry for a creative career. At British Arrows we’re currently working with Pearson to support the BTEC curriculum by making it the most relevant qualification on offer to students from all backgrounds – and we’re actively encouraging everyone across the industry to support us on this. By doing so, teenagers showing raw talent, passion and creativity – forget a degree, these are by far the most important attributes to making it in the creative industries – who obtain their BTEC could now have an equal chance of entering the industry.
And let’s not stop at education… Many companies adopt a token diversity policy in order to keep up with the fast changing world we live in, but what is actually being put into effect? Perhaps if it were to be renamed as an 'equality and ppportunity policy' it’d be clearer as to what we are all trying to achieve and therefore actually deliver.
Engaging with the country’s youth
In recent weeks we’ve seen in this magazine some of the great projects that are being carried out in this space – by Mencap, for work placements for those with learning disabilities, and from Creative Equals, championing women at the top and flexible working, for example. At British Arrows we are developing our very own project, Pathways, which will include three inter-connected initiatives to actively engage with the country’s youth, add real value to their qualifications and offer them a pathway into the advertising industry. Let’s create a central hub that collates the details of all of these projects and work together to a central manifesto – come on! We’re stronger and more powerful together.
We know all too well how often our sector can be belittled by wider society, it was only last month that finance giant, Wells Fargo, was shamed into withdrawing its campaign that implied a more scientific career route was a better option than becoming an artist or actor. It’s time for us to dispel those myths through education and a shift in peoples’ mindset.
I hope that, taking our lead, industries outside advertising will also adopt and reshape accordingly, so a call for action is launched to industries as a collective, who have the power to make a difference, to unite and work together towards this ideal. As the key lies in adding value to a more focused and skills-based approach to learning, what can you do to help the future of our country and create real opportunities for the diverse (in a really good way) young workforce out there? They’re waiting.
A massive and somewhat overambitious vision I’m sure, but let’s start now and turn conversations into action. Already we have agencies, production companies and post production companies involved including 4creative, Academy Films, Adam & Eve/DDB, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Biscuit Filmworks, Electric Theatre Collective, Fallon, Fat Lemon, MPC, Nexus, Ogilvy & Mather, Rogue, Saatchi & Saatchi, Somesuch, The Mill, Thinkbox and Wieden & Kennedy.
Charlie Crompton is partner at Rogue Films and chairman of British Arrows