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Points North: Brian Whigham, Managing Director of Venn Digital


Each Friday, Points North gives a senior media figure a platform to air their views on a topical or relevant issue.

This week it’s Brian Whigham, managing director of Venn Digital. With job candidates increasingly not up to scratch, he asks what the Northern digital and creative sectors can do to reverse the widening skills gap.

In digital marketing the good people may not have gone, but they’re in short supply.

As digital marketers, our mission is to help companies be found online. It seems ironic then that in the search for new talent, we’re not getting the right results.

There’s no argument that the skills gap is very real in digital with the CMI’s prediction that by 2017 this shortage will reach more than 750,000 people and one year on, this gap has widened.

wighamThe problem lies with Generation Why.

It seems outrageous that we’re running out of digital pioneers in a generation where it’s almost impossible to get anyone to put their phones down.

With technology dominating, there is clearly a disconnect between this generation’s fluency in technology and translating this into practical skills.

They fail to realise that digital knowledge will count for everything in the future and the potential of these skills. The situation is similar to the 1880s engineering boom and the hope is that the ‘digital revolution’ kicks in before it’s too late.

This shortage in the creative and digital sectors is a problem. We’re one of the fastest growing digital marketing agencies in the North West, but the burning concern is how we’re going to find the right people.

The danger when there’s only a small number of people to fill your vacancy is that standards slip. No matter how long it takes, we refuse to comprise on quality with new hires.

Our search for a technical SEO took hundreds of calls from recruiters yet only 20% were up to the job. This is an issue we have found across the company where candidates just aren’t up to scratch.

The struggle isn’t limited to our agency or even the North, as this digital skills gap has defiantly emerged across the UK.

Google Trends indicates that interest in digital marketing has steadily increased while training in this field has dropped.

Training is the only way to resolve this shortage. We held a workshop at Salford College to give marketing students a genuine insight into what digital marketers do and inspire Generation Y to follow this path.

Working in an industry where talent is in short supply, I want to fix the problem from the inside out. A believer in harnessing raw talent, I love having bright graduates come into the business to give them real experience and learn from them.

We held an intern assessment day to create a buzz around digital marketing and find real talent to mould into the digital marketers of the future. Still, you have to appreciate the experts that you already have which is why I introduced an incentive trip to Ibiza later this summer.

There’s a real worry that it’s not demand for business but the supply of talent which could hold Northern companies back.

Brian Whigham is managing director of Venn Digital.

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