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The Talent-Crunch Crisis: We've Got to Step Up Outreach to Young People

There's Stiff Competition in Tech Companies, Which Students See as More Creative

By Published on . 10

It takes a village to raise a child, and it will take our entire community to attract and train young, diverse talent for our industry.

The dearth of fresh talent has always been a concern, but never more so than now. We find too many young people attracted to other careers that they see as more creative and a high turnover rate among recent entrants into our field, who are leaving agencies for work that seems to promise greater potential for individual growth.

Recent research by Arnold Worldwide found that the advertising industry is no longer a talent magnet, because the young labor force is unaware of how they can apply their tech and entrepreneurial skills to the business. Deutsch L.A., studying the "Agency Talent Rotisserie," concluded that to keep people, agencies need to "find more ways for employees to scratch their entrepreneurial itch."

A major challenge is in the evolved nature of our youth, spurred by advanced technology. Young people, who have never known a world without digital technology, see that they have more and more choices among tech-related industries, coupled with higher expectations about a comfortable work-life balance.

If they cannot be promoted to CEO within a few months, so what? They'll just start their own companies or jump to jobs that might more readily fulfill their desires to have it all and have it now.

The creative product and connection to pop culture have long been the most attractive aspects of working in the advertising industry. In the last decade, however, the creative crown rests atop the heads of those working at Apple, Google, Pinterest and other technology-based firms. Increased competition for resources forces us to search harder and get more innovative about finding the talent we need, not only to sustain but to grow our businesses amid constant technological change.

The traditional summertime college-intern season is in full swing, and it remains a great learning ground for young people who will be leading us into the future. Whether they be in-house agency programs, or arranged with groups such as the 4A's, the Marcus Graham Project or local ad clubs, successful internships require committed engagement on the part of both the student and the agency.

Some of the most exciting inroads are being made with training and development in primary and secondary schools. From holding companies to industry associations to industry events such as Advertising Week, we see renewed outreach to young people -- sometimes in novel ways, such as Minneapolis-based Campbell Mithun's hire of its 2012 "Lucky 13" interns via a job application of 13 tweets.

I'd like to cite one recent example of a remarkable educational experience that far exceeded the sum of its parts. This June marked the first graduating class of High School for Innovation in Advertising and Media (IAM). Located in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn, IAM is the only accredited public high school in the country that offers advertising and marketing classes as part of its core curriculum.

The IAM graduation on June 26 came about because of a unique convergence of business, education, government and passionate individuals. Numerous entities contributed to the realization of IAM: industry associations, including the Advertising Club of New York, which contributed $60,000 in scholarships to four IAM graduation seniors; TED Conference; Michelle Obama's "Let's Move!" initiative to combat childhood obesity; holding companies and agencies; Advertising Week; individuals such as former EURO RSCG head Ron Berger and Interpublic's Michael Roth; and government agencies such as the New York Department of Education.

The IAM success story will continue to inform, inspire and spread. The young graduates will soon be an integral part of our industry; each year more IAM graduates will follow in their path. As more and more IAM alumni enter their chosen field, they will give back by encouraging and mentoring others as they were encouraged and mentored.

Education is a vital life force of our industry, and expanding educational opportunities is a role that we proudly must undertake. Not only is it personally satisfying to guide and nurture young people, we gain immediate and long-term value to our industry.

As the world grows more challenging, competitive and complex, we need to remember that the young people we reach aren't intimidated. They know that this evolution means more possibilities for them. They have a lot to learn from us, but they are also more than eager to contribute their creative thoughts, energy and fearlessness. Let's make sure with our outreach and education programs that as many of them as possible choose to make those contributions in our industry.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nancy Hill is president and CEO of the American Association of Advertising Agencies.

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