Image: Wikimedia Image: Wikimedia

Students across the nation are once again holed up in study rooms, tucked between library shelves and buried in books. Whether they’re hoping to get into their first choice university or sail into a top grad scheme, their sights are set firmly on the future. Shaun Bailey has been doing his homework on education and business.

The pressure is on – but not just for young people. Just as core GCSE subjects underwent a hard and fast reform, with the first exams of the 2015 overhaul sat this May, many businesses need to seriously rethink their approach to attracting young talent.

In no industry is this truer than marketing. While the core function we fulfill – promoting and selling brands, products and services – remains the same, how we do it is almost unrecognisable from the discipline just 10 years ago. Data, technology, and creativity have always been crucial to ensuring our work is on the cutting edge; but today the tools and channels to connect with people are boundless. No longer static, our world is turned by data scientists, technologists, social media experts, behavioral psychologists, and a myriad of other skillsets.

If a CMO walked into their local school or college and asked career or employability officers their thoughts on the industry, could they be sure their perception matched this dynamic reality? The answer is, no. Most educational institutions – particularly pre-university – have an entirely different perspective. Unlike revered professions, such as medicine and law, marketing is still seen as fluffy. As a school subject, it’s often considered soft, plonked in the same peer group as media, art and design.

Meanwhile, those who do seek to pursue a career in marketing are prone to receiving damaging advice. There is still the misconception that marketing is elitist, and careers are about luck of the draw or who you know. Even if people persist, they are told the industry is so saturated, they probably won’t land a job anyway. They are advised career prospects are brighter elsewhere.

Wrong. Marketing business leaders are desperate to welcome smart young people through the door. Diversity is encouraged. The more mixed the background and skillsets, the better.

Not only is this left out of the conversation by teachers and career advisers, but there is a distinct prejudice that points talented people towards traditional industries. Good with numbers? Join a bank. Students are unaware that their aptitude for maths could lead to an exciting career in a creative business; while many that are intrigued, are deftly put off by their advisers.

This lack of knowledge occurs cross-country. A celebrated, world-class centre of innovation, London hoovers up a lot of the talent, which is hugely damaging to the creative hubs popping up all over the country. From Edinburgh to Bristol, businesses need talented new entrants to fuel their growth. Having launched a successful creative business services agency in Suffolk, the need to educate young people on a local level about the opportunities on their doorstep is profound.

There is no doubt that schools need to get with the programme. But marketing businesses also need to start taking matters into their own hands – and fast. They need to create initiatives that encourage new entrants, whether that’s apprenticeships, paid internships or attractive benefits and clear progression for junior team members. They also need to leave the office. Businesses should try to earn an invite into schools and universities to educate students on life in the real world. From Year 9 when secondary students pick their GCSE subjects or even younger, children are already on their career paths. Marketing businesses need to ensure they are equipped with a complete picture of the breadth of opportunities out there.

This is something we are really trying to prioritise in our agency. We have links with local colleges and run outreach programmes, and have recently launched our Brilliant Experiences Board to enable more of our people, no matter their age or job title, to be involved in top-level decision-making. But still there is much more to do.

One of the biggest challenges will be in striking the balance between cultivating an attractive internal culture and also communicating it with young people. How do we translate our offering and career opportunities in marketing in a way that will resonate? How do we earn our place in school assemblies and at career fairs? As the bell sounds, signifying that another wave of smart young people will be looking for careers, it is our responsibility to help them navigate their unique paths into our exciting industry.

Shaun Bailey, is the founder and CEO, Jacob Bailey Group