Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Young Creatives and Workplace Needs

Grand Rapids advertising firm Hanon-McKendry recently invited a group of professors to come in and discuss what the local professionals are seeing in the workplace in terms of skills needed from recent college grads seeking employment.

I was invited but couldn't attend because the meeting took place during one of my class meeting times. But the gist of the meeting is that advertising agencies need the communication and story-telling skills of "digital natives" again, after several years of looking to hire only people with several years of experience. You can read an article about it in MiBiz (free registration required).

The timing of this meeting was coincidental with a broader national discussion about how universities should be preparing aspiring advertising and public relations professionals.

In the "Firm Voice", the blog of the Council of PR Firms, a recent post summarized the views of a panel of educators and professionals. Essentially, PR students need more experiential "hands-on" learning (which is why we have real class clients and require an internship at GVSU) and professors need to continue to keep up with technology and the changes and needs of the workplace.

An article in the Autumn/Winter 2010 issue of Journalism and Mass Communication Educator notes that advertising management--which includes the subjects of strategy, branding, positioning, research, planning, teamwork, agency structure and operations etc--is viewed by professionals and professors as an important part of an undergraduate curriculum. Nationally, 60% of programs in advertising or advertising/pr have a required advertising management course, and the remainder offer such coursework as an elective.

An article in the Fall 2010 Journal of Advertising Education stressed the following after depth interviews with a dozen senior creative directors from across the country: agencies need "hybrid" creatives with a broad understanding of interactive and traditional media; young professionals must have a better appreciation of strategy than ever before; conceptual ability as well as craft (i.e. skills) are important; familiarity with technology is expected but expertise is not; portfolios should be online or many in the position to hire won't bother looking at a resume.

There are lots of interesting changes in the advertising and PR professions. It's important that educators and practitioners continue to listen to each other. It's even more important that students pay attention to what professors and professionals are saying about the requirements for entry into the profession.

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