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Why advertising apprenticeships needed to change to meet the challenges of the modern world

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Trailblazer, Alan Mead is Head of Learning at Advertising Agency, Bray Leino. Alan has been involved in helping to develop the new Advertising and Media Executive standard.

What originally motivated you to start developing advertising apprenticeships?

We used to just recruit graduates, and we would invest heavily in their training, development and salaries. But often we’d find that they would move elsewhere after about 18 months.

It occurred to us that apprentices could be more likely to stick around, and they could add value in different ways. So in 2012 we first got involved with developing apprenticeships through the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising’s “Creative Pioneers” Apprenticeship Programme. As a progression of this we later joined forces with the Institute alongside others in the industry to help develop the new standard. It’s been a great opportunity for all of us to think about what requirements and skillsets are most important in this day and age.

How do the new standards improve upon what went before?

Technology and the way we use it is changing all the time. This is having a huge impact on our industry. Our apprenticeships need to involve and embrace these changes - and the new standards will.

We also ensure that, alongside the more practical ‘task based’ skills, the apprentices will learn skills such as the art of negotiating – and other key skills that can help create a successful business outcome.

The new standards are more structured and focused, and they will offer apprentices a greater breadth of engagement.

What will the apprentices’ ‘roles’ be when they’ve completed the standard?

An Account Executive apprentice will effectively end up being at the heart of the relationship their Agency has with their Clients. They will be the main point of contact with the client, and responsible for helping to orchestrate the work of all the different teams – such as the creatives, media and digital planners and strategists.

What will they learn?

The account executive apprentices will be taught skills such as how to take briefs from clients, and how to create project, budget and timing plans. They’ll also learn softer skills such as how to coordinate different teams, how to extract information from a client in order to pin down their ‘true’ objectives, and how to build a close and productive relationships with clients.

The Media Executive apprentices will also get a solid grounding in planning and budgeting and the like, but as mentioned earlier, they will also be drilled in skills such as the art of negotiating – which is a highly necessary skill for their area. They will also learn relationship building skills because they’ll be working closely with media owners. We’ll also ensure that they have the ability to stay on top of all the current trends in media and advertising – an ever shifting field.

Are these skills transferable?

Once they’ve finished, all the apprentices will have an extremely strong grounding in their field, and this will give them the freedom to move into a wide range of associated areas within the industry. They will also have strong business skills which will be a significant string to their bow throughout their career.

How long would you say that it takes for an apprentice to start generating value for a company?

They will probably spend the first three months getting familiar with working in an office. But after about six months they start really pulling their weight, and within a year, often less, they start performing really well and achieving great results.

What challenges do you think might be faced in the future for your industry?

I think our main challenge right now is the speed of change, because the pace of technology advancement driving the industry is so quick. We need to make sure that those who are already in the industry, and those entering it, are able to keep on top of all the changes and stay ahead of the curve. They must be able to stay at the cutting edge of technology and have the capacity to maximise the technologies that are available.

We need to keep this in mind with our standards, and make sure that they are constantly updated to remain relevant.

How do you think your industry in general feels about the changes and the new apprenticeship standards?

Most in the industry would like for both apprentices and graduates to receive quality opportunities to progress, not to mention the opportunities that are now going to open up for existing employees to upskill through apprenticeships too. Many of the UK’s biggest and most celebrated agencies are currently heavily involved in the design and construction of these new standards, and we all feel very excited about what is to come! There is a lot of talent involved, and because of this, the new standards will be more than fit for purpose.



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