Suffering from a talent crisis? Get off your backside and grow your own

david ponce de leonThe industry constantly bemoans a lack of skilled new employees. In this opinion piece David Ponce de Leon argues they need to do more to help nurture the talent.

The skills shortage issue continues to be a challenge for different sectors of the communications industry and at the dawn of a new year the topic seems to be heating up again.

Everybody is talking about how hard is to find the right talent or the right skills for their own particular business needs. It’s almost as if a good old whine about the skills shortage ‘crisis’ has become the norm.

Media, creative, digital, content, design, PR, data analytics. You name it.

We’ve heard many agency principals expressing their frustration about this issue yet still doing nothing substantial about it. Starting with their own businesses.



ADMA CEO Jodie Sangster recently offered a solution by suggesting: “More companies could invest in training individuals within the business to have those skills or encourage those from other career backgrounds to be up-skilled in the discipline.”

Sounds easy, ah? But why aren’t more companies doing just that?

Is it a bottom-line issue? Is it because training your own staff requires a certain investment of time and resources that companies are reluctant to undertake in the current economic climate? Is it because people in training or up-skilling are harder to charge for? All of the above?

Whatever the reason, I cannot help but feel that somehow as an industry we are responsible for our own skills shortage.

We’ve all heard that old chestnut of the talented graduate who desperately wants an entry level role but no one will give it to him/her as the role requires “at least two years” experience. How can this graduate gain any experience if nobody will give him/her a chance on the first place?

Being involved with training and education for the best part of the past 10 years, I’m used to hear the same old arguments over and over again. “Your courses don’t prepare people for agency life.” “We need them to hit the ground running.” “I don’t have the time to babysit anyone.” Etcetera.

The truth is, no school can teach those skills. Only the workplace can prepare people for the workplace. Undoubtedly, tertiary and industry education play a big role in the formation of communication professionals, but it is only at work that we get the skills we need, not by learning about it.

Shortage skills in our industry are not solved with more academic courses, either. But they could be solved by workplaces growing their own talent.

It’s not simple. It requires dedication, patience, and the scarcest of resources available nowadays: time.

So this year, please, make it the year that you grow your own. If you’re not getting what you want or need from the pool of talent available, then please, start doing it yourself.

But don’t just sit there.

Put your hand up to be a tutor for one of our many industry courses. Volunteer to give a lecture on a subject close to your heart and expertise. Attend that graduation night. Get involved.

But most importantly, open the doors of your agency to young (or older) people looking for a break and teach them, nurture them, support them, give of yourself to them.

It’s not easy. It requires people skills, a passion for education and a desire of giving selflessly.

This year, give it a try. You might be surprised. The person you need could be knocking at your door at this very moment. It might be one of those students you tutored. It can be one of those interns sitting across from you. It can be one of the young hopefuls you met at that graduation night. They are all around us. We just need to give them a chance and help them grow.

Let’s make 2015 the year we grow our own.

David Ponce de Leon is Creative Director at McCann Melbourne and was head of AWARD School Melbourne from 2010-2015 and is the current head of ADMA Creative School Melbourne.


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