Junior roles dry up as firms look to experienced staff

studentFears that the UK’s creative industries will be bereft of the next generation of talent have been realised with the release of the 2021 salary guide from recruitment firm Aquent, which exposes a “junior job market crisis” as Covid-19 has triggered a hiring freeze for industry newcomers.

The combination of staff adapting to working from home and employees still on the extended furlough scheme has seen resources stretched to capacity.

This has left little time to train and nurture those entering the industry, meaning junior roles are no longer a viable option. Instead, employers are on the hunt for candidates that can “hit the ground running” and need less support and training.

However, this is likely to have a knock-on effect, creating a ‘blackhole’ of talent in the years to come and making what roles are available, highly contested. This situation is in stark contrast to last year’s findings which showed junior roles experienced an inflation-busting average pay increase of 7%.

But despite wages stagnating, the creative industries are still looking to hire. This paints a promising picture for more senior candidates, particularly those working in the world of design/creative, as companies look to expertise to help them navigate challenging times, Aquent claims.

Senior motion graphics experts, for instance, have seen some of the highest increases overall (up 24%), while senior art directors have also witnessed an uplift in pay (15%) as well as digital designers (13%).

Aquent’s research also found that nearly nine in ten (88%) of workers are actively seeking or are open to finding a new job this year, despite the economic downturn, with half (50%) looking to leave their jobs in the next three to six months. This is likely to be a challenge for employers who can no longer be complacent when it comes to staff retention and must do everything they can in order to cling on to valued staff, the report warns.

Lower wage increases are largely due to the huge drop in advertising spend caused by the pandemic. The postponing of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics dealt a significant blow, while delays to other sporting events, including the UEFA Euro 2020 finals, have also hurt the sector.

In addition, many advertisers have paused or have pulled their ad campaigns, totalling more than £1.1bn worth of spend during lockdown, causing wages to flatline. Government spending has offset some of this, with around £100m spent on public health messaging during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, digital advertising has seen a surge. In Q3 alone, it is estimated that social media spend in the UK increased by 43%, as brands looked to take advantage of audiences trapped in lockdown. This has meant that UX designers have become vital to companies as online shopping continues to drive consumer spending habits, with over four-fifths (81%) of senior executives “banking on customer experience for growth”.

Even so, despite the switch to content and the move away from advertising, senior copy editors and web editors have both seen wages slashed by around a fifth (20%).

In fact, web editor roles overall are falling out of favour, with a pay decrease of 8% compared to last year’s figures. The same can be said for senior brand management roles, which have experienced a decrease in wages of 7% over a six-year period and senior content strategists who have seen a pay rise of just £5,000 over the same time frame, representing a pay decrease in line with inflation.

However, it has been a different story for health writers, who have now become highly sought-after in the wake of the pandemic.

For employers, 2020 has proven advantageous in terms of acquiring skilled employees despite a rocky economy. Employers have also found that applicants are more willing to accept lower rates and take on a wider range of responsibilities as part of their remit.

Aquent UK managing director Aliza Sweiry said: “Last year was extremely tough for the creative industries as Covid-19 continues to have a huge impact on business. Unfortunately, this has been felt most severely by junior talent looking to make their mark on the industry. Unless companies begin hiring junior roles again soon, it’s likely that this could have a serious knock-on to the future of team structures in the years to come.

“While salaries have stagnated overall, it is promising to see is that creative companies are still taking on new staff. This is a particularly good time for the likes of senior designers, health writers and those working in ecommerce as spending habits become more online focused. Employers are on the lookout for skills that can enhance their customer and end user experience so now is the time for these candidates to step up and potentially bag themselves a dream role.”

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