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The industry must get youth on side

While a shift is beginning to take place, with initiatives being launched to help them get their foot in the door, some businesses are still failing to truly recognise the value that young people can deliver.

As a result, job prospects for graduates remain narrow, but, beyond this, businesses and the wider industry could be risking crisis if they ignore fresh talent.

Businesses should be open to the opportunity and see they have a chance to mould, grow and develop graduates. Hiring a younger workforce also provides reassurance there will be a skilled team capable of driving the industry forward. Above all else, business people must remain mindful they too had to start somewhere.

In the direct marketing sector in particular, change is constant and businesses are expected to continually evolve to maintain pace with developments. The younger generation bring new approaches and different ways of looking at things; a huge benefit to any agency where new ideas are essential if they are going to stay ahead of competitors. Those that veer away from this could lack the vital elements that set their offering apart from others and, as a result, will fail to meet consumer engagement demands.

With collaboration now front of mind across the industry, everyone is being encouraged to find new and effective ways of working. Graduates and apprentices bring a fresh perspective and the ability to adapt to new situations with ease. This call for collaboration has been led, in the majority, by the growth in innovative technological developments, which have rapidly become part of everyday life and businesses, and as a result have demanded a new approach to customer engagement.

Having grown up during the technological explosion, the younger generation have a better understanding of new and emerging consumer touchpoints and will equip agencies with an alternative view on how best to approach a like minded target audience. Beyond this, they bring skills required for the changing face of the DM industry; an area where employees who’ve been in the industry for longer may struggle to adapt to.

With that in mind, there are clear benefits to both, but if businesses are going to focus seriously on attracting the next generation of talent, which will be vital to keep the industry energised, how should they go about approaching this?

If the industry is going to make a conscious decision here, it’s clear that the awareness gap in what a career in this sector now entails and the incredible diversity of roles on offer needs to be addressed in the first instance. For many, direct marketing is still very much about fliers being pushed through doors. Of course, while we know it’s now moved far beyond this, there needs to be a wider education process undertaken to encourage talented individuals in for the health of the industry. Those currently in the industry will only be capable of moving developments on so far, so now is the time to start planning for the future.

This awareness programme and recruitment can take various forms, via the likes of colleges and universities, running competitions for apprentice schemes, or offering one-to-one mentoring and guidance. What businesses must remember is that they are being interviewed as much as the candidate themselves. The industry can no longer afford to rest on its laurels and expect fresh talent to just arrive.

The changing face of the creative industry has meant a high demand for new skills, and agencies must ensure they are making provision for this now if ever changing client needs are going to continue to be met. They must ensure young talent is equipped with the tools to enter the agency world, that there are opportunities for development and a space where all ideas are encouraged. After all, it’s these employees who will be key in paving the way for new approaches.

The Graeme Robertson Trust is one way the industry is supporting the next generation; an initiative that others should certainly consider doing. The Trust partners with a different school each year, offering students a platform to begin their career in the creative sector. As part of this, students have the opportunity to receive feedback from creative directors, build their portfolio, win an industry award and even secure their first job role. It’s programmes like this that will prove invaluable in attracting, securing and developing the talent that will enable the industry to evolve and something DM organisations shouldn’t hesitate to get behind.

While there is no shortage of young people looking for ways to break into the creative industry, DM agencies in particular need to ensure they are positioning themselves at the forefront so they are top of the list when it comes to young talent making career decisions. Direct marketing now encapsulates so much more than it once did, and it’s the responsibility of agencies today to ensure they are laying the foundations for the next generation; a key part of which involves educating them on how direct marketing has changed and where it might be heading in the future.

The fresh ideas and energy injected into a business by younger employees provides a hugely complementary balance to the experience of more established employees. With technological developments pushing people to continually evolve their thinking and approaches, the agency world must also ensure they keep up so they are well positioned to continue meeting the needs of the client, and protect the evolution and longevity of the industry as a whole.