Digital skills crisis: Universities leaving graduates ill-equipped

By By David Blight | 5 November 2012

In the first of a five-part series on the digital skills shortage in the Australian marcomms industry, the Association for Data-driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA) chief executive Jodie Sangster has argued that local universities are not preparing students adequately.

Her comments follow a study from Digital Chameleon which indicated extremely low levels of digital skills in the Australian industry, with only 28% of respondents holding the necessary digital skills for their role. The study has led to a strong reaction from peak industry bodies.

Sangster told AdNews that the skills shortage was a major problem, and said universities have been partly to blame for the issue.

“A big part of the problem is that the university curriculum is out of date,” Sangster said. “Instead of teaching the key principles that apply to today’s marketer - multi-channel, data-driven, measureable marketing - universities still focus on the theory of marketing and communications as it applied in the days before technology and data took over.

“This leaves new entrants into the marketing world ill-equipped to deal with the ‘new’ role of the marketer as someone with a 360 degree skill set that understands both the principles of marketing and the channels, data and technology.”

Sangster argued there has been a major divide between marketers and technologists, and that the gap needs to close for digital skills to improve.

“It’s not that there a low level of digital skills – but instead that there is a divide between ‘marketing skills’ and ‘technology skills’. In simple terms we are seeing two types of individual enter the marketing profession - those that have been trained in marketing and communications – and those that are technology savvy. As we know today’s marketer needs to be both.

“In the courses that [ADMA runs] we find that professional marketers are attending courses to get up-to-speed with the newest technologies such as social and mobile. We also have many people that understand the technology but have no skills or training in marketing and therefore need to educate themselves on marketing principles and practices to be able to apply their technical abilities into marketing practice.

“The good news is that in the past year we have seen a substantial increase in attendees on both sides so there is clearly a recognition in the marketing community that today’s marketer needs both skill sets to be effective in their role.

“This needs to be addressed and quickly - the world of marketing and advertising has changed and the ‘new’ skillset is going to become an increasing necessity.”

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