Earlier this month, the think tank carrying the name of former Prime Minister Tony Blair recommended 70% of young people should go to university by 2040. The outcome of the increase, according to the report, would be a more productive and capable workforce.
“We still don’t have enough highly skilled individuals to fill many vacancies today,” the report added.
If having a degree is the silver bullet to filling vacancies with highly skilled individuals, then marketing should have no problem at all. More than 90% of marketers have at minimum an undergraduate degree, according to our 2022 Career and Salary Survey.
Has marketing found the means to a talent pool overflowing with the best and brightest? A depth and breadth of candidates that will sustain the standard and standing of marketing well into the next decade?
In short, no. Several things to note. Of those who have an undergraduate degree, just 19% studied marketing. This is fine if the degree is supplemented by training or a qualification in marketing. That, as we know, is far from a given in an age where for some not having marketing training is seen as a badge of honour.
Put widening accessibility on your to do list alongside inflation, customer experience and measurement.
Crucially, despite strides towards the democratisation of higher education, the percentage of non-white undergraduates and those with working class parents significantly trails the number of white, middle class students.
At risk of erroneous causation, this does appear to be reflected in marketing. As our survey has shown for several years, ethnic minorities and people who identify as from lower socio-economic groups are underrepresented.
Higher education is a fantastic enabler. Unequivocally working class in background, going to university provided me with a sense of what was possible, something finishing my education after A-Levels would have denied.
But in limiting most of the recruitment in marketing to people with a degree and not exploring other opportunities to widen accessibility, brands are limiting their talent pool, and doing their brands and businesses a disservice.
All marketers should be market orientated. They should strive day after day to understand the prospective customers in their category. Curiosity is an important skill that defines great marketers. But not everything can be learned.
Empathy is another attribute considered among the most valuable assets a marketer can possess. Logical then the more people from different backgrounds – socio-economic, ethnic, old and young – in your team, the better your understanding of more of your customers.
The seeming propensity to rely on a graduate pipeline might be sustainable, just, but it won’t be effective long term. Relying on people stumbling into a marketing career in lieu of any better idea after completing an undergraduate course, or waiting on the dedicated minority who studied marketing, is not sensible. It’s one means to maintaining a recruitment pipeline, but only one.
Apprenticeships are another option. They are a means to widen accessibility to more people from a greater variety of backgrounds and at different ages. They are also currently shockingly under used and underappreciated.
Marketing Week’s 2022 Career and Salary Survey found a majority of companies do not currently accommodate marketing apprentices and a fifth saw no value in apprenticeships. Too complicated to develop and a difficult sell being the common conclusion.
Addressing some of the challenges, misconceptions and barriers to prospective apprentices is one objective behind ‘Opening Up’, an editorial campaign launched by Marketing Week this week.
Through features and calls to action from leading industry figures, we will look at other ways brands and their marketers can democratise marketing careers. From rethinking mentoring to funding, from recruitment processes to enablement, there’s plenty else to address.
Through Opening Up, we will highlight and analyse the issues, hopefully playing a part in furthering conversations.
There isn’t anything fundamentally wrong with marketing recruitment. The current supply and demand disconnect for data skills aside, there’s nothing fundamentally broken. Vacancies will continue to be filled and brilliant marketers will continue to emerge. But the future could be so much better. And we all have a responsibility to try and make it so.
All of you reading know how great marketing is, how vital it is to the current and future success of your company. How influential it can be on society and culture. It is your responsibility to enable more people to take advantage. To remove barriers, to offer more routes, to encourage and cheerlead whenever, wherever and however you can.
Through Opening Up, we will highlight and analyse the issues, hopefully playing a part in furthering conversations as well as delivering rallying calls to think again.
But for actual change, you are the provocateurs. There’s work for the C-suite around apprenticeship levies and in sponsoring changes to recruitment practices, but resolve now to think and act differently.
Put widening accessibility on your to do list alongside inflation, customer experience and measurement. It will help your brand and the industry grow in the long term.
Marketing Week’s Opening Up campaign is pushing for the democratisation of marketing careers. Follow our coverage of the challenges and opportunities over the coming weeks. Read the first article in the series here.