Skill shortages in the creative and digital markets


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Written by Toby Thwaites, Director, Purple Consultancy - Specialists in creative recruitment

As recruiters for the creative industries, including the digital industry, we are naturally very aware of the constant need for the sourcing of fresh talent and also for addressing deficiencies or skills shortages in the existing pool of available digital and creative talent.

But we're now more aware than ever that it is necessary to offer services beyond the norm in order to survive tough times.

It has become increasingly obvious to us through feedback from agencies we work with, that there is a real shortage of Creative Technologists in the digital industry and that there is also not enough truly effective, formal training available through normal channels.

Account handlers, project managers and the agency's clients need a greater technical understanding to properly support their internal production teams. Additional knowledge would enable them to justify larger budgets thereby allowing the creation of more engaging digital work.

In the case of the bigger agencies, there is a role for their HR departments here in making information and budget available to help meet these needs. Not only would this training equip agency staff with relevant and much needed skills, but in recessionary times it gives an agency's client-facing team a way of positioning themselves as providers of properly integrated services thereby giving them an edge over their competitors.

We've been considering for a while the fact that more formal technical training should be available to all people working within the industry and we believe that, if it were there, agencies may find that clients might also willingly access the training.

This would be of benefit in a number of ways. It would aid agencies in terms of how they price their technical work and take some of the pressure off agencies, who find it very frustrating at times to justify technical costs that clients don't understand and often aren't willing to understand. If clients had more technical knowledge through training it would inevitably lead to greater collaboration between agencies and clients and I don't imagine that anyone could argue against the desirability of that.

And it's not even that the training isn't available at all. The training that is available seems, by many accounts, to be inadequate for the digital industry of today. Many universities offer courses in Computer Science, Interaction Design and even Graphic Design courses, which have elements of digital design/creative skills incorporated within them.

However, one of the problems is that the technologies advance so quickly that the lecturers and course administrators struggle to keep the content of the courses relevant. Planning a course a year in advance is nigh on impossible when what you're teaching gets superseded by more advanced technology on what feels like a daily basis. Feedback and more collaboration between colleges and agencies as well as the industry's trade bodies could help ensure that course content remains up to date and is therefore of use to the industry once the students graduate.

The responsibility for providing solutions to these problems is everyone's, and certainly it is up to anyone with a vested interest in the future success of the digital industry to find the best way through this hard time.

Thankfully we've taken all these issues and feedback into consideration and have found a training provider, Academy Class, who happens to be one of the best around, to partner with in offering free networking/training events over the coming months. We've also recently taken the initiative to sit down with our clients HR teams and talk them through all the different technical roles there are, how they work with each other and how best to find suitable candidates to fill them. This came about through frank discussion with clients and their admission to us that help was needed.

Recruitment consultants should be taking the lead as we are, after all, employed to find the best and most highly-skilled candidates for our clients. Working alongside our clients, we need to keep coming up with new ideas and be prepared to take on extra responsibilities. Candidates also need this kind of innovative approach and agencies appreciate it, so get your thinking caps on and embrace the challenge.

Purple Consultancy

Toby Thwaites and Paul Wood founded Purple in June 2000. Purple provides recruitment consultancy to advertising, design, integrated marketing, publishing, digital and agency office support services. With 30 staff in London and Leeds, and with the highest paying referral scheme in the UK, they're definitely worth talking to. Through innovation and focus on client service, Purple achieves high client satisfaction levels which set it apart from its competitors.

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