Digital skills shortage: pure economics?

At Chinwag we’ve been chatting about the skills shortage in digital for some time. We did a survey on the topic too at the end of 2007 to find out exactly how digital was faring. The results were quite worrying.

In the ‘Marketing 2.0: if you build it they will come’ panel at the Social Media Influence conference in London last week the topic came up again, setting off debate on talent in digital.

“How can we attract people to the industry?” asked one audience member – my colleague Deirdre Molloy as it happens.

Given how fast things are moving, it comes up all the time. But, Deirdre asked the panel, how can digtial market itself to students and school children when most of them don’t have a clue what a web developer or a search marketing manager actually is? In turn, how can small to medium sized companies compete for talent when the likes of Google and the other ten-ton gorrillas of the internet are just hoovering up folks across the board – from grads to MBAs?

A throwaway comment from Robin Grant, Co-Founder and Managing Director of We Are Social, was the spark that ignited debate. “It’s simply economics,” he said “It’s capitalism”.

But does that make it right? If you offer the highest wages - you get the best candidates and the best shot at innovation.

Easy to say but shouldn’t charities have a chance to take advantage of the talent on the market? Or what about startups who can’t afford such high wages yet? Should they not recieve a slice of the innovation pie?

Training up school leavers was something that Georgina Atwell, Online Director Rough Guides and DK books, considered a solution to the shortage. That is finding younger recruits and training them in-house as a way of tackling the problem.

If only big companies can attract the talent then it’s like playing football on an uneven pitch. Digital is thriving compared to the days post-dotcom crash but things will never quite be the same. The inflated wages of boomtime didn’t last then and perhaps they won’t today.


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Its up to us

I totally agree with the sentiment of this article but I would like to add that actions speak louder than words. Its time we stopped ranting and worked together as an industry to inform government, schools and colleges of the importance of, and advantages to, a career in Digital.

This means real quantifiable things like career paths and guides, apprenticeships and internships, qualifications and CPD.

We've made a start:

But we can't do it alone. I've discussed this with many of you at various events but when words need turning into action suddenly things change (you know who you are). My challenge to all of you is to start working together and make real things happen now.