Where will we be in 2023… with the skills shortage?

empty office 2In the first of a series of articles, Decision Marketing looks at the major issues facing the UK marketing industry in the next 12 months, kicking off with the skills shortage which this year has erupted from a niggling headache to a full-blown migraine.

It is not as if the sector hadn’t been warned – as far back as 2016 many were raising fears of a lost generation and this January we saw the continuing threat of the so-called great resignation. One study predicted a mass exodus of talent, with nearly a third of all employees planning to look for a new job.

It seems tech professionals are still the most sought after, with the annual salary of a data scientist now reaching £120,000, making it the highest paying job role of 2022. For their bosses, chief data officers, annual pay can be as high as £350,000.

Top retailers have been leading the hunt for talent, Marks & Spencer, John Lewis Partnership and Blooming Wild all launched major recruitment drives to bring in experts to help implement their data-driven strategies.

However, the UK is not alone in its skills problem; in July the World Federation of Advertisers and global media advisors MediaSense claimed nearly half (48%) of all companies in the advertising and marketing industry believe the sector is facing its “worst-ever crisis” when it comes to talent, topping off at 54% among agencies, with the most pressing issue being a dearth of data and analytics professionals.

More than two-thirds (68%) of advertisers, agencies, adtech companies and media owners globally said that talk of a “crisis” was not overstating the matter, a figure that rose to 74% in the US.

Even so, there were suggestions that the UK industry’s efforts to attract the finest minds appeared at odds with the pay policy of the companies operating in the sector, with figures that exposed marketing professionals are among the least likely to be offered a wage rise.

With claims that pay has fallen at its fastest rate on record, Forbes Advisor conducted a survey of 5,100 Brits to discover how many have considered asking for a pay rise due to the cost of living crisis, the dearth of talent and the great resignation.

The study revealed that only 3.2% of marketing professionals had been voluntarily offered a pay rise – among the lowest of all industries – and while nearly three-quarters considered asking for a rise, only one in six actually plucked up the courage to do so.

Not that this was a resounding success either, as only just over a third who went cap in hand to their boss actually got a wage hike. This is in sharp contrast to the tech industry, which is the best for offering staff rises; 8.13% of employers handed an increase without having to ask.

Worryingly, it was estimated that the digital skills shortage is costing the UK economy more than £50bn a year, with eight in ten business leaders admitting this dearth of talent is having a negative impact on their organisation yet few seem willing to reskill staff.

AND Digital’s “The Nature of the Digital Skills Gap” revealed that, with three-fifths of business growth dependant on digital outcomes, the situation is reaching crisis point.

So, what is the solution and what can companies do in the coming year – with purse strings tightening rapidly – to ease the situation?

UK marketing and advertising bodies have been lobbying hard for the Government to intervene, calling on ministers to support industry-led jobs and skills training programmes to help address the UK’s digital skills crisis and strengthen the economic recovery from coronavirus.

And it appears to have had some initial success. The DMA was the first to secure  increased funding with the launch of new Digital Marketing Strategy Skills Bootcamps, funded by the Department for Education through its Skills for Life Programme.

There has also been a growing recognition that British businesses cannot rely on graduates to combat the major skills shortage but must instead take urgent action to reskill and train up their own workforce to prevent the UK sleepwalking into a crisis.

According to the “How To Solve The Data Science Skills Shortage” report, 44% of firms plan to invest in AI technology, but 63% said their staff did not have the skills necessary and 61% did not have enough staff to deliver the benefits of AI.

AI expert Dr Sally Eaves, who contributed to the report, said: “Businesses cannot rely solely on graduates or continue the poaching merry-go-round. The good news is employers have already begun to recognise the value of on-the-job training and other certifications.

“There is no single approach – but a combination of expanding mid-career training including to those currently in non-technology roles, equipping people with the right tools for the job and growing the data science community will start to see that skills gap narrow.

“Together, they could significantly increase the supply of talent, and create good quality satisfying jobs that benefit individuals, organisations and the wider economy.”

Maybe, just maybe, things are starting to move in the right direction, after all.

Related stories
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Skills shortage threatens to derail digital transformation
Industry is facing ‘worst ever’ talent crisis, say bosses
Marketing firms among the most tight fisted on pay
Booming demand for data experts triggers salary war
Data science roles now the highest paid in tech industry
UK firms facing talent crisis as millions plan to quit job

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