In the past five years, the changes to adland have been unprecedented, with the rise of programmatic advertising and digital ad spend. So much so, that the number of practitioners with the required digital skills has not kept up with demand, making it difficult for companies to keep up.
FutureYou founder and director Michael Te Young says this situation isn't sustainable, which is why he's working on creating a whole new talent pool for employers.
“There’s a talent shortage and everyone is nicking everyone else’s people, so we have to concentrate on making talent rather than just sourcing it,” he says, explaining the rationale behind the launch of the FutureYou Academy in 2015.
The organisation works with university graduates to teach them the specific skills required for the digital media industry, across a broad range of careers, including media publishers, sales networks, media agencies and marketers.
Te Young says these areas have all been rocked with severe skill shortages due to digital's explosive growth.
“Some companies have programmes in place but the reality is that digital staff have to conduct the training and that just intensifies pressure on their workloads. So the programme becomes inconsistent because at the end of the day doing the business is the highest priority. On top of that, utilising new starters is even more challenging because they don’t become effective until after being trained.”
Instead, FutureYou hopes to instil the required knowledge in trainees before they start in a role, using a curriculum that focuses on teaching four practical digital media competencies: understanding reports, managing campaigns, constructing proposals and creating media plans. Students are also required to sit their Google AdWords Fundamentals exam.
It’s all completed via e-learning, with weekly modules and a workshop at the end to reiterate the learning. It's about to take its third intake of graduates and with each intake, Te Young modifies the curriculum based on feedback and his own learning along the way.
It’s that modification Te Young gives as one of the reasons why tertiary education providers have been unable to educate students to the level FutureYou hopes to do before they graduate.
He says given the rate of change in the digital media industry, it could take a university up to two years to create a course that fits and by that point, it would be time to revise it again.
The other reason he gives is a lack of knowledge about what practitioners in the industry actually do in digital media, including the roles and the subsequent skills that are required.
He says there’s a disconnect between the industry and tertiary education providers because the tutors aren’t practitioners themselves, whereas he's able to feed his learnings as a part-time digital business director for Hunter Media direct to his trainees.
He also draws on his experience in previous digital roles at NZME, OMD, Adslot as well as his consulting work.
Given the disconnect between tertiary education providers and the digital media industry, FutureYou’s first step is to give its trainees context surrounding the media industry and how digital media fits into that. He wants to make sure that when they’re employed, they understand the ecosystem and how their company and role fit into that.
“They don’t necessarily have to be on the tools and be able to deploy a Google search campaign, but if in the first instance they know the ecosystem and the industry and how things work then that’s really important.”
He explains that when a new hire starts their job, they're often sat in a corner with a computer and given a couple of tasks to learn, which are added to as they get better. What Te Young hopes is that the extra knowledge base his trainees have will accelerate that learning and see them go on to be leaders in the industry.
But it doesn’t all come down to the specific industry knowledge trainees have when being employed and Te Young is careful to take on trainees who can sell themselves beyond their education.
With FutureYou’s trainees coming from AUT, MIT as well as Seek, Te Young gets the chance to screen and select them before they're put through the course and he says he’s looking for people he would want to employ himself. If he would employ them, he says he's happy to put them in front of clients.
“They buy a person who is hungry, passionate, has a great attitude and can communicate well. So the academy will get them an audience with the companies but at the end of the day they have to sell themselves.”
So far, seven of Te Young’s nine trainees have been employed in Dentsu, 1st Screen, KBR Digital and Mi9. When they sign onto a job, FutureYou can facilitate a company induction programme before they commence the role in order to tailor them further to the employer’s business. It will also support the trainee during their first three months of employment to monitor their progress and fill any knowledge gaps.
One of the trainees, Richard Morhall, was placed in KBR Digital and its general manager Allanah Tatana says from an employer’s perspective, hiring someone fresh out of the FutureYou Academy was a no brainer.
“The academy set up Richard for success by teaching him the foundations of the digital world and he easily slotted into our business ready to take on the challenges of daily work life. He has been at KBR for four months and is hungry, motivated and super smart,” she says.