Training our way out of the innovation abyss

ADMA CEO Jodie Sangster
By ADMA CEO Jodie Sangster | 3 May 2016

The debate surrounding innovation and Australia’s digital future has amplified in the last few weeks with anticipation surrounding this week’s budget, the roll-out of some initiatives announced in the government’s innovation statement, along with some media industry discussion around the direction of the NBN roll-out and the impact this may have on Australia’s digital economy in the near and long term.

Irrespective of whether you think that innovation is something that can and should be mandated for at a federal level, the fact that the issue has vaulted into today’s political rhetoric means that there are legitimate concerns that Australia has faltered in the innovation stakes and runs a very real risk of sliding down global digital economy indicators.

The continued evolution and success of my own industry – the Australian marketing and advertising industry – is irrevocably tied to a flourishing digital economy. The way marketing and advertising is developed, created and distributed has been revolutionised by digital transformation. As we move to a world which will embrace not only the visual web (videos and photos) but will also move to virtual reality and augmented reality (that will require fast and efficient upload and download speeds) robust digital infrastructure is critical.

But new and emerging technologies that have the potential to deliver so much to improve the customer experience and take us closer to the holy grail of personalised one to one marketing communications mean nothing if we don’t invest in the skills needed to leverage. Marketing and advertising technology requires people who know how to use it to the best effect; technology is doing amazing things but at the end of the day it is people who are needed to generate the insights and creativity that shift the needle on business performance.

We know from our members that it can be extremely hard for even the largest of brands to keep abreast of change – and that it is increasingly difficult to recruit those with up to date skill sets as the pace of change has outstripped tertiary education on offer. This paucity of skills is driving overseas recruitment with a recent survey by AIMIA revealing that the digital industry has ten times the number of employees on 457 visas.

With LinkedIn’s 2016 survey of the most in demand skills indicating that 18 out of the 25 most in-demand skills were in the STEM, data and data-driven marketing areas it is clear that there is both an opportunity and threat here for Australian brands. And this was the driving impetus behind the launch of our new education curriculum ADMA IQ earlier in the year; the fact that so many of our members were lamenting the availability of up to date, quality and effective skills training.

But not everyone who would benefit from acquiring data-driven marketing skills is able to afford them. And whilst STEM education is on the agenda and university courses are slowly modernising, it’s of little comfort to the myriad of small businesses and individuals who need to up skill in the here and now.

As an organisation ADMA has constantly warned of the effects of the widening skills gap on Australian innovation and productivity so we decided to put our money where our mouth is and launch the ADMA One for One Education Program which will donate one free course for every one of our IQ courses sold. They will be distributed to people outside our industry who will benefit – for example small businesses, start-ups, those who have been out of the workforce due to unemployment, ill-health or maternity/paternity leave, regional and rural communities with restricted access to training and women who wish to enter the data sciences and data disciplines – delivering millions of dollars in training to those most in need.

The need is frighteningly real. A report by global IT consultancy firm Infosys released at the World Economic Forum in January this year that found that young Australians are less prepared for the digital world than comparable countries, ranking last (last) out of nine countries (Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States) for young people being confident in their job skills and feeling optimistic about their employment prospects.

If we want Australia to lead the field in terms of marketing creativity, inspiration, innovation and what I’d characterise as ‘guts’ then we need to move swiftly to try and close the widening gulf between what is possible and where Australia’s digital economy is in danger of heading. And the time to act is today.

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