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Jeff McCarthy is a Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University with a remit for employability and digital skills. He entered a career in Higher Education in 2009 as he wanted to make a difference after having a digital career in both agency and client-side roles. He has represented the MPA since February 2015 and the DMA North Council since November 2018. Both of these roles involve nurturing the talent pipeline through stronger Higher Education and industry collaboration. We caught up with Jeff to get an educational-based perspective on the current digital skills gap in the North West.

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What are the advantages of employing fresh Graduates? How will this contribute to reducing the skills gap?

There are so many! You’re getting someone very keen to learn, proven to be successful by completing their degree. Most of all, you are recruiting a curious mind, keen to learn, soak up knowledge and add value to your organisation. Someone you can train in your particular way of doing things (processes, software, reporting lines). You’re gaining someone who will offer a different perspective, look at things differently, perhaps suggest better ways of operating.

Regarding the skills gap, always remember you are not getting the finished article. You are employing an individual right at the beginning of their career.  Like many of us at that age, they may be very keen to work for your organisation but have less of a definite idea on the specific role that interests them or that they’re best at. So, the onus is on organisations as employers to encourage ongoing training, lifelong learning, and invest in their development whether that’s training in-house or on-the-job, or funding their desire to study particular qualifications or bespoke courses.  

Are you finding more businesses recruiting Grads/Students or implementing training schemes to overcome this problem?

Yes, we are, as per my comments mentioned above regarding lifelong learning and ongoing training, we’re the UK's leading provider of Degree Apprenticeships educating over 1,100 Degree Apprentices and rapidly growing. Our brand new Digital Marketing Degree Apprenticeship starts in September 2019 and we are already over-subscribed. Other employers are developing and implementing their own Graduate Schemes. It very much depends on what’s the best approach for their organisation requirements. We have so many amazing organisations of all shapes, sizes, and specialisms increasingly wanting to partner with us in established or more innovative ways.

Is there anything else you would like to add from an educational perspective on how the digital skills gap can be overcome so Manchester and the North West can thrive as the digital powerhouse it is?

Well with 531 more digital businesses in the Northwest since 2011 we all have a huge part to play in this. Businesses and Higher Education Institutions need to continue to form partnerships, as collaboration is key and that means proactively engaging with one another. The best strategy any organisation can adopt is to raise on-campus awareness with students from the very beginning of their educational journey with MMU. That helps organisations identify potential talent, makes students familiar with your organisation, and gives them experience working with your organisation on some level. Whether it be formal and paid, or facilitating a live brief workshop, invite students in to see your organisation. All of this helps organisations anticipate who can fill future vacancies rather than reactively seeking to fill those already vacant.

So, speak with lecturers, careers and employability people, member associations like Manchester Publicity Association (MPA), Data & Marketing Association (DMA), Manchester Digital and so on. Myself and my colleagues look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you to Jeff, for sharing his stance on the digital skills gap and providing insight to both organisations and Graduates across the Northwest on how we can collaborate to overcome this!

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