In slashing grad recruitment, are we creating a future skills gap?

It has been clear over the last six months that intelligent, eminently employable graduates wanting to enter the communications industry are really struggling to find jobs.  I know of several really bright 2008 graduates who are still plugging away at part time jobs while trying to find a way into our industry.  It is not for lack of trying, but since the economy started its downward spiral, companies in almost every industry have understandably cut back on graduate recruitment. 

grad-recruitmentWhat worries me is that if things continue the way they are, 2009’s graduates will find themselves in exactly the same position.  This is totally understandable from an economic viewpoint, but if we continue to neglect to bring in sufficient new blood to the communications industry for several years, we could be creating major problems further down the line.

Where are the middleweight creative teams and account managers of 2014 going to come from?  We do seem to be in danger of generating a massive skills gap. 

You could argue that a slowing economy generates less opportunity for advancement and promotion, meaning that the skills gap will be narrowed by staff ascending the careers ladder more slowly than they might have done in a buoyant economy, but this isn’t a sufficient solution.  Planning to fast-track the graduates of 2011 into more senior roles isn’t really going to solve the problem either.

The current batch of graduates themselves are also at a bit of an impasse.  It’s not as if they can get the experience they need by working for next to nothing on placement or internship.  If any agency is making redundancies, it’s very difficult for them to simultaneously bring in a bunch of new faces, however cheap or temporary they might be.  Even if you can manage the internal politics of that conundrum, a reduced agency headcount means less people available to supervise placement and intern types.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I know that the industry is going to have to somehow ramp up investment in young talent – or we will have a major skills crisis on our hands just as the economy (hopefully) picks up.

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