Google extends industry-backed UK graduate scheme to bridge digital skills gap
Google is funding the extension of UK graduate scheme Squared in collaboration with the IPA and 35 media and creative agencies. The internet giant is launching the first official office space in central London dedicated to the programme, following two successful pilots last year. The two-year scheme kicks off next month (4 March) and comprises 160 graduates pre-selected by the participating agencies including Aegis, Mediacom and Starcom Mediavest, all of which will undertake a six-week training schedule. These graduates will be taught by a range of Google staff and industry experts such as executive creative director and vice-chairman at OgilvyOne London and Ogilvy & Mather UK Rory Sutherland, who will mentor students across topics spanning all areas of digital. The curriculum will be updated continuously to incorporate all changes to platforms and technologies in the industry and emerging trends. They will also be given extensive grounding in how to respond to client briefs, project management and educated on the general structure of the web, along with compliance issues and the behavioural economics of advertising. Two Squared pilot schemes were launched last year after which the qualified graduates returned to their agencies where they were absorbed into a range of roles. The success of the pilots have prompted a further extension of the programme for non-graduate agency executives. As a result it will offer 1,000 existing agency employees places offering ten two-day courses over the two years. Speaking to the Drum Google UK managing director Dan Cobley said the programme is aimed at bridging the lack of digital skills in the UK advertising industry, which represents one of the biggest challenges for agencies and brands. “Whenever I speak to agencies one of the biggest issues for them is always how difficult it is to recruit people with the necessary digital skills and experience needed – Squared was developed to address that. This isn’t about Google – it’s about digital. We have had companies like Twitter and Facebook in to ensure graduates are given a fully rounded view of digital and how it will continue to develop,” he said. The aim is to help the graduates, all of which have grown up surrounded by digital, apply their knowledge to the work place, according to Cobley. “Most of the folks in the age bracket that come into Squared have grown up with digital – they are multi-screen and device neutral – but they need to be taught the framework and given the confidence to bring that into the workplace,” he said. Industry-backed initiatives like this are vital if the ad industry is to keep pace with the speed at which digital technology is evolving and consumers’ media consumption along with it, according to Cobley. “If phase one of the digital revolution was all about consumers being connected, phase two is consumers that are always connected. “The average person looks at their smartphone 160 times a day – digital is far more pervasive now and the number of potential brand connection moments is infinite. There is a subset of those moments that really matter for them and agencies must make those moments count for their clients. That is the mobile challenge that is most exciting,” he said. Meanwhile Cobley believes the rapid growth of video viewing across multiple devices is, alongside mobile, one of the most exciting digital growth areas. “YouTube viewing itself is growing at 15 per cent year on year and brands need to understand that if they are going to win people’s hearts and minds while watching that it is not just about TV anymore – it is wherever a signal can be sent – so mobile, laptops, smart TVs. The brands that understand that will steal a march on their competition,” he said. Although linear TV is still core to brand strategies more marketers are approaching campaigns in a platform-agnostic way, according to Cobley. “We know TV is core to most successful campaigns we see, but the difference is that you used to make a TV ad and then figure out how to amplify it through digital. Now the best campaigns are the ones where the core idea is an engagement idea and TV is used to drive scale towards it – that shows a flipping of the mindset,” he said. Nicola Mendelsohn, president of the IPA, said: "We are thrilled to officially launch Squared with Google in this new and creative space, after such a successful pilot in 2012. We strive to equip our talented graduates with plenty of new and transformative skills in digital technologies, to ensure that they remain the sought-after, employable graduates that keep Britain at the forefront of innovation." The news was announced this evening at a public unveiling at Tottenham Court Road, hosted by Google, the IPA, Impact International and MP Damian Collins. The Home Learning College has also partnered with Google to provide remote online training access to agencies across the country. The first formal Squared programme kicks off on 4th March 2013.