Nicola Mendelsohn: Adland needs to flaunt its sassy side to get the top talent

By Nicola Mendelsohn, campaignlive.co.uk, Thursday, 29 September 2011 08:00AM

There are just six organisations in the UK that take on more than 500 graduate recruits each year: PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte, KPMG, Ernst & Young and the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Nicola Mendelsohn is the executive chairman of Karmarama

Nicola Mendelsohn is the executive chairman of Karmarama

And then there's TeachFirst: a government-led initiative to provide a co-ordinated push to encourage the brightest and best to take a profession in teaching seriously. It's not the money that's attracting them but other things, such as putting a smile on children's faces, opening young minds to new learning and finding new ways of self-expression in the classroom. It's a great model for what we as an industry sector could be doing.

Think about it: the 2011 IPA Census at the start of the year showed that, between us, we hired 700 graduates - there's no reason to believe we won't be doing more or less the same again this year. And the IPA Summer School, now in its fifth year, has increased its numbers to 26. In fact, since the school was founded, more than half of the student intake has got jobs in the ad industry.

We have the opportunity to join forces to raise our sector profile in universities, and take up some of the slack left by the City boys. That's why, on 8 September, at Ravensbourne, in front of a packed audience of this year's grads, IPA Council and others, I announced that the IPA's autumn programme would include a new initiative: the formation of a central IPA Talent Pool in collaboration with top universities from which member agencies can draw, and partnerships with Top Employers and Sponsors for Educational Opportunity to help represent us at more than 50 university campuses from October. If we get it right, I think we have the potential to increase our intake or even double it over the next few years, putting us in pole position to become one of the biggest employers of talent in the UK.

We're still aiming for quality, not quantity across the board; and putting extra effort into those degree specialisms that can fuel the industries' need for data analysts, developers, programmers, creative technologists and behavioural economists. This is where the real war for talent lies; and where we need to assert the industry's "sassy" credentials to differentiate our offer from that of the City, or law, or consultancy, and put us on a par with Google and Bloomberg, and put the swagger back into our business (just like the fashionista, with the red patent winklepickers and drainpipes, at my Ravensbourne party). We're also actively seeking to improve the cultural diversity of our intake, in partnership with the IPA Ethnic Diversity Group.

So, new grads of 2011, I salute you. You will be the role models of the future. Embrace the opportunity and take the industry by storm.

Nicola Mendelsohn is the IPA president and executive chairman of Karmarama.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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