New hybrid and remote working models ‘catastrophic’ for young people, Clearly survey finds

12 July 2021 | 6 min read | News
Clearly Team

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The Creative Industry Talent Paradox Survey: July 2021

A new survey published today by communications consultancy Clearly, has found that the number of internship, work placements, and graduate schemes offered by public relations, advertising, marketing, publishing, and media agencies will fall dramatically below pre-pandemic levels once restrictions are lifted on 19th July as a direct consequence of the move towards hybrid and remote working.

It warns that creative agency businesses risk falling short of achieving their future goals if they continue to favour traditional and proven expertise over newer and yet unproven young talent.

The survey is based on a study of 230 agency leaders conducted between 7th  and 9th July 2021 and it aimed to determine:

  • How has the pandemic impacted the number of young people offered the opportunity to join an internship, work placement, or graduate training scheme with agency businesses between March 2020 and July 2021?
  • Will the number of schemes differ once restrictions are lifted, and new working practices are introduced?

Accordingly, before March 2020, two-thirds (67 per cent) of agency businesses ran such talent schemes. As the pandemic took hold, 4 in 10 (40 per cent) either paused indefinitely or cancelled them altogether. 28 per cent continued their schemes but at reduced levels, while just 1 in 5 (22 per cent) agencies maintained them without interruption.

Future plans

Agency leaders were asked about their hiring intentions over the next 12 months. 1 in 3 (34 per cent) said they are currently recruiting new roles and a further 31 per cent plan to do so in the coming months. However, the nature of these new hires is overwhelmingly focused on those with previous experience over the next generation of talent.

Indeed, the research found that only a quarter (27 per cent) of agency leaders plan to either continue or resume their young talent schemes at pre-pandemic levels over the next 12 months. 1 in 3 (36 per cent) said that while they will restart them, fewer roles will be available. More than a third (37 per cent) said they have no plans to either resume or introduce any schemes in the foreseeable future.

Leaders were then asked to outline which schemes they’ll likely be running. 40 per cent will provide work placement opportunities, 47 per cent plan to offer paid-internships (but 17 per cent will run un-paid internship programs), and 22 per cent will run graduate schemes.

Changing working practices death knell for youth employment?

Half (50 per cent) of creative agency businesses said they will adopt a permanent hybrid working model from 19th  July, with 23 per cent planning to operate on a fully remote business. Interestingly, 1 in 4 (25%) will be returning to the workplace as they did pre-pandemic, while 2 per cent have yet to confirm their intentions.

Paul MacKenzie-Cummins, Founder & Managing Director at Clearly said: “The shift towards hybrid or remote working practices among three-quarters of all agencies is seeing the number of opportunities created for college students, undergraduates and graduates fall woefully short of pre-pandemic levels.

“We have seen that it is more than possible to not only manage teams effectively in a virtual working world, but also to onboard new people. Yet those at the earliest stages of their careers were disadvantaged both during the pandemic and will continue to be so in the post-pandemic era due to agencies focusing on experience over future potential.

“Reducing, restricting, or even cancelling young talent schemes is both short-term thinking and will likely be catastrophic for the long-term future and talent pipelines of many agency businesses. It could present their greatest obstacle to growth and even challenge their status as an employer of choice if career progression for ambitious professionals is slowed due to a lack of fresh talent joining the ranks at entry level.”

Hiring young talent has never been easier

The government’s Kickstart Scheme, for example, covers the cost of a young person’s salary for six months. But the number of businesses registering for the scheme versus those who have hired an individual under the age of 25 through it appears to be disappointingly low.

Clearly recently made a successful hire via the scheme last month and are currently recruiting an additional two people through it. This forms part of the Pledge we committed to in 2020, but it just makes moral and business sense.

Paul MacKenzie-Cummins said: “Indeed, young people under the age of 25 years account for 1 in 4 of all jobs lost due to the pandemic, and more than 200,000 have been unemployed for six months or more.

Agency leaders have a responsibility to keep the talent pipeline flowing; the future of the industry depends on it.

“When the expectant economic boom comes, it won’t be a simple matter of agency businesses being able to swoop in and pick up the people that are needed to fill the roles available. The talent solution lies in long term planning, not short-term quick fixes and those agency businesses who embrace the opportunity to support young people will be the winners as the war for creative talent enters its most intense period.

“With so much hard work done by PR and other creative disciplines to raise the profile of ours as a career of choice, it could all be worthless if there aren’t enough school, college or university leavers getting both a taste for and a foot in the door of the industry.

“And with two-thirds of agencies either currently hiring or planning to do so in the coming months, surely they can consider creating opportunities for the employees of tomorrow? Agency leaders have a responsibility to keep the talent pipeline flowing; the future of the industry depends on it.”

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