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Market Intelligence: Talent in Advertising, Marketing and PR

The Market Intelligence workshop series aims to share and increase awareness of industry-specific opportunities and challenges with a focus on future-proofing the talent needs of local businesses.

Gradconsult led the workshop to a group of local SMEs

Please note: Sources for all data cited in this article can be found in this presentation.

This support is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund

On Monday 17 June 2019, Nottingham Trent University (NTU) hosted the second workshop in our series of sector-focused workshops, with the Market Intelligence: Talent in Advertising, Marketing and PR (AMPR).

The workshop, delivered by Gradconsult, saw in-depth discussions and dialogue between representatives from AMPR companies across Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire on the topics of:

  • the state of the graduate market nationally and locally
  • key challenges for the sector over the next five years
  • the skills, knowledge and behaviours businesses need graduates to have
  • challenges faced by SMEs in recruitment and retention
  • how NTU can work with local business to help address the above and ensure our talent pipeline meets the future needs of the industry

The graduate market nationally

To start the session, Gradconsult started by providing some details of the state of the graduate market across the UK.

Firstly, data shows there are not enough young people entering the workforce. This is leading to more vacant jobs than graduates to fill them as older workers retire. Brexit may complicate this further due to a reduced migrant workforce.

However, graduate unemployment is at its lowest since 197 at 5.1% and 87.5% are satisfied with their careers after 3.5 years.

In the UK, the graduate market is not regulated in the same way as other countries such as Germany or the USA., meaning that the provision of university degree places is not linked to workforce requirements, creating a highly non-linear graduate market.

When considering their prospects, 48% of final year students are still undecided on their future career and therefore open to influence from business. Generally, those in the creative industries take a little longer to decide what they want to do.

While the perception is that a high proportion of graduates will be drawn to London, the majority (69%) actually to go work in the region they grew up, with a further 13% moving to go to university and staying there. What may be surprising is that London is the only UK city where there is an oversupply of graduates.

Despite a rising perception that degrees don't benefits in the same way they used to, those with a degree still earn significantly more than non-graduates over their working life, with undergraduates and postgraduates earning £10k and £16k extra per year respectively.

Marketing graduates generally start on the lower end of the salary scale compared to other degree disciplines.

They also generally enter the workforce straight from undergraduate study rather than go on to further study.

The graduate job market locally

Some key facts about the graduate market in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire are that:

  • there are a lower proportion of managers, directors and professional occuptions available in both Derby and Nottingham compared to the UK nationally, although Derby fares slightly better.
  • Nottingham comes in at 7th-best UK city for disposable income when comparing graduate starting salary to cost of living
  • Derby tops the table in the same study
  • the East Midlands has the lowest proportion of residents with a degree in the UK, leading to more demand for skills.

Businesses can apply and champion these messages through their attraction and recruitment of talent in the area, collaborating with NTU to help further advance prosperity and opportunity within the local area.

NTU currently has 5,749 marketing and business undergraduate and postgraduate students in the 2018/19 academic year.

Key challenges over the next 5 years

The group identified a number of key challenges they see as crucial over the next 5 years, including:

  • difficulties in recruitment in finding and retaining the right candidates, along with the high costs of doing so
  • the potential impact of Brexit in recruiting EU candidates
  • that all workers have to be multi-skilled and cover lots of areas, rather than a single specialism – an issue for both recruiters and graduates
  • the impact on traditional retail of the decline of town centres, and the impact this is having on their clients

The skills, knowledge and behaviours businesses need graduates to have

Many of the businesses at this workshop have had experience of recruiting graduates in the past, with some heavily reliant on them as part of their business model.

They fed back that in order to address some of the challenges above, there are some key skills, knowledge and behaviours that graduates need.

  • The graduate should come to the business with an idea of their own goals – by having an understanding of their own goals, where the business is going and how their role contributes to that, they will gain a better appreciation of the benefits and opportunities available to them.
  • Commercial skills – graduates often don't feel comfortable in dealing with the commercial aspects of roles, such as agreeing deals, dealing with budgets, negotiation, etc., although some of these will come with time and experience.
  • Other basic behaviours can also be an issue – many employers reported issues with inappropriate behaviours at work including use of mobile phones, timekeeping, managing their own workload and not appreciating a distinction between personal and work life.
  • Quality of applications – while some applicants have clearly taken part in NTU's modules on applications, CVs and covering letters, some clearly haven't and require further coaching, even when their skills are attractive to the business.
  • Longer internships work better – due to the time and cost of embedding graduate placements, extra time to learn and contribute is preferable. If short placements are undertaken. it is better to have the graduate focus on a specific project or piece of work.
MIT AMPR Compuer
Groups broke out to discuss their major challenges

Recruitment challenges

The Digital Marketing Institute in 2018 provided a number of challenges experienced across the industry:

  • The AMPR sector has a huge reliance on informal recruitment methods and unpaid work as a way in – this can be seen as a barrier to some graduates.
  • Graduates are now required to have a mix of creative and technical or scientific skills – a mixture of specialist and general skills are required that can be a challenge for new graduates.
  • The UK has a digital skills shortage – 70% of leading marketers express a concern about digital skills shortages.
  • The industry currently recruits 9.5% of employees from the EU, which will be significantly complicated by Brexit.
  • Most UK students go on to work in areas not directly related to their degree discipline – this non-linearity can be positive but also creates challenges when recruiting for specific competencies and can require thinking outside the box, for example that mathematicians may make great coders.

The businesses in the room also shared their own major challenges:

  • Finding graduates in the first place and getting them through the door – all reported a drop in speculative applications, despite many recruiters finding the proactive approach impressive if done well. Many businesses now have to rely on recruitment agencies.
  • Unrealistic expectations from graduates about starting salary and benefits – many found the graduates have seen London salaries and were expecting to achieve this elsewhere. They also have higher expectations about the benefits and support provided by a prospective employer that has traditionally been offered.
  • The time required to be spent getting a new employee 'up-to-speed' and having a good level of independence can be a major investment, particularly in the first three months.
  • Many graduates' personal evaluation versus performance may not match up – for example many believe they are skilled in social media but have never used it in a corporate environment.
  • Some specific roles can be very difficult to recruit to – account handlers and developers for example require a very specific set of skills. Some businesses have taken the step of re-skilling existing staff into these positions.

NTU is heavily invested in ensuring success and opportunities are available for all; we run many events and projects for organisations to engage with in order to explore options to drive a diverse workforce.

Email for more information on how to get involved.

The NTU talent pool and how SMEs can get involved

NTU currently has 5,749 marketing and business undergraduate and postgraduate students in the 2018/19 academic year. These come from a range of degree discipline clusters including marketing, business management, and international business.

There is a range of postgraduate course provision for those looking for more specialist skills in marketing and business.

As well as marketing and business students, marketing as a profession is attractive to other disciplines, particularly the arts and humanities (English, history, languages, etc.) and art and design (fashion marketing and branding).

There are plenty of opportunities for businesses of all sizes to engage with students from NTU. A selection of these opportunities include:

  • Consultancy challenges: group consultancy projects held twice per year.
  • Internships: 8-week and 16-week internships as part of credit-rated modules.
  • Thinkubator Challenge: held annually in November, businesses can submit a day's challenge for 10 students in collaboration with an academic. The students will submit recommendations based on the given scenario.
  • Digital Marketing Academy: held in November-February, this is an SME-led skils workshop to support students in developing digital skills.

In addition to the above, businesses can engage with NTU and target marketing and business students through on-campus activity such as degree shows, panel sessions and live projects. You can also contact the Employability team at NTU to talk about their recruitment strategy.

Email for more information.

Market Intelligence: Talent in...?

The Market Intelligence: Talent in Advertising, Marketing and PR was the second in the series to be delivered throughout 2019 and 2020.

The full programme of workshops are:

Workshops are invite-only, but you will be able to find articles such as these covering each sector on the NTU website.

How the High Level Skills programme supports SMEs

If you have any questions about any of the above, or want to enquire about engaging with NTU as a business, please get in touch.

You can contact us via any of the below channels:

Our Market Intelligence: Talent in …? workshops are delivered through the GRADS for D2N2 project. To find out more about this project and the wider support that NTU can offer, visit our website.

* The GRADS for D2N2 project is part-funded by the European Social Fund and is part of the ESF High Level Skills programme. The programme is delivered by NTU as part of the High Level Skills consortium which also includes Derby College, Nottingham College, the University of Derby, Vision West Nottinghamshire College and Nottingham City Council.

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