Doing your bit in the Digital Talent War

With demand for talent in digital outweighing supply and many graduates in search of their first role, Tom weighs in on the Digital Talent War.

Illustration of a group of people toppling a tall building by pulling on ropes attached to the roof

I’ve just spent an evening with students trying to start a career in digital design. It was frustrating to hear how difficult it is to find entry level roles.

So what’s the problem? It’s widely accepted that the demand for talent in digital is significantly outstripping supply. This is slowing the economy down, and leading to spiralling wage costs.

The recent Augur report tries to park this problem with educational institutions: arts courses aren’t creating business-ready students who can command high salaries immediately after graduating. That’s nonsense. Business has always shared the responsibility to bridge the gap between the lecture theatre and the office. Why isn’t my own industry doing this? I’ve racked my brains for a list:

Your company is too small to support this kind of investment: OK, the maths don’t seem to work. But I know tiny start-ups that prioritise training young talent as a way to grow and to create a loyal, committed team (Foolproof was one of these many years ago). Are you sure this whole business thing is going to work out for you?

Your company practices a snide form of capitalism: you only hire people that others have invested in training, so you don’t have to wear the cost of that training yourself.

Your company is too lazy to teach: your team doesn’t want to sink time and effort into bringing someone into the design profession. You’re a special case: way too busy with other important things to give new talent an opportunity.

Your company is not good enough to teach: your organisation doesn’t actually have the chops to bring someone in at entry-level and move them quickly on to a point where they are creating business value.

Er, that’s it: I couldn’t come up with any more. If I’ve missed something, please let me know.

Over its 17 years Foolproof has given hundreds of people a start in the design profession. Some (like the inestimable Philip Morton) are still with us after nearly a decade. Others moved on more quickly. All of these people are a proud achievement of our company. Work comes and goes, but the talent you bring through lasts a lifetime.

It’s tough when someone you take on at entry-level leaves after two years because companies that don’t carry the equivalent cost of training throw money at them to move jobs. But heck, you’re at least fully entitled to go to market for a role with ‘two years’ experience required’. If you don’t hire and train entry-level design people you’ve not earned the right to run that ad.

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