CAMPAIGN FOR BEGINNERS: CLOSE-UP - Taking on trainees is business sense

There are two schools of thought when it comes to taking on trainees in agency creative departments. The first says that agencies are in dereliction of their duty if they do not take on youngsters. The second is the self-righteous approach shown by some who have continued to take on creative trainees while the economic pressures on the business grow ever stronger: look at us we're such terrific employers, they seem to say.

In fact, both attitudes are misguided. Taking on trainees is neither a duty nor a virtue, nor are those attitudes going to sway the accountants who increasingly have a powerful say in agency management. The single best reason for taking on trainees in the creative or any other agency department you care to name is that it makes sound business sense.

Look at it from the point of view of the business as a whole. It is too obvious to need stating that advertising agencies must bring new creative blood in to survive. Yes, the cynics say, but let someone else do the training and we will poach them. Inevitably, if trainee recruitment stops or slows down in this way, then the result will be a shortage of talent.

In the past, young creatives have taken advantage of this artificially created shortage to escalate salaries at an alarming rate. Inevitably, agencies found themselves paying over the odds for often rather indifferent people. The ad industry must be the one consumer group that rigs the market against itself. But the old arguments persist. Someone else can take on creative juniors because they only leave when they're trained/we haven't got the time to train people, and so on.

Are these arguments really sound? Take the one about trainees leaving when they're trained. If an agency's trainees are poached so easily perhaps the agency should ask itself whether it's giving them enough money or job satisfaction. As for not having time to train creative juniors, that makes it sound like everyone else an agency takes on comes fully trained, like a good guide dog. True, in the case of absolute beginners there's little to draw on in the way of experience and more to learn. But balancing this out is the fact that good youngsters who are keen learn at terrific speed.

Any creative director who is set against devoting time, money and energy to having creative trainees in their agency should answer one question - how did you get started in the business?