Secret Marketer: Schools need to keep up with the evolving needs of brand owners

As the champagne corks are cleared off front lawns and the tissue boxes replenished, it is perhaps worth analysing the recent A-level results and what they mean for the marketing industry.

At SM Towers, I take on two to three graduates per year into my team. However, this year – for the first time – my first apprentice is a school-leaver and my main source of recruitment.

Of the 300,000 students who collected their result this time, 26% achieved As or A-stars – a statistic that has fallen for the fourth year in a row. However, upon closer inspection worrying patterns are emerging for us marketers.

Some of the key subjects that a brand owner may consider relevant today are scoring particularly poorly. Information and communications technology (ICT) has the lowest level of top grade passes (one in 10), followed by media studies, which is very relevant for today’s creative industries, business studies (14% A/A-stars), computing (16%) and critical thinking (also 16%).

With the exception of maths, all the top grades went to linguists: Irish Gaelic (56% scored A/A-stars), modern languages (51%), German (39%), French (37%), Spanish (35%) and classics (35%).

A cynic could argue that the first lot are ‘dossy’ subjects that low-performers are forced to take, and are therefore bound to score poorly. The second group is for the ‘swots’, and clever people excel no matter what the subject.

But my view is hopefully more positive. As the world of education changes, more brands will take on more school-leavers. They, in turn, will join the rat race earlier, with a different set of qualifications upon which to be judged. It is therefore essential that our A-levels are more relevant to the workplace, and students take subjects that will help them get on the career ladder more easily.

I was also surprised to see the male/female split on some subjects. Only 8.5% of those taking computing were girls, 21% of physics scholars are females and 28% in further maths. As brand owners look to recruit diverse workforces, it’s disappointing to see such disparities.

Don’t get me wrong – I too want the richest pool of applicants joining our profession, with the most diverse of backgrounds and the most enquiring of minds. But the world is changing and unless our schools change with us, there will be an inherent mismatch between the type of school-leaver, and what brand owners need to ensure their brands excel in a globally competitive marketplace.

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