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Training and Education

By The Drum | Administrator

July 21, 2003 | 13 min read

Cambridge Marketing Colleges' chairman Charles Nixon

There is always someone waiting to jump into your shoes, so you’ve got to keep on your toes. One way to stay ahead of the pack is by continuing to train and educate yourself. Gordon Laing looks at what training opportunities there are available for today’s busy marketing professionals.

I probably shouldn’t do this, but I must confess. Two years after adding shorthand training (just a refresher course, I may add) to my list of objectives in an appraisal, and I’m still scribbling a homogenised short-long-hand at break-knuckle speed and creasing my brow deeply in concentration when it comes to the transcribing/translating bit.

But before I get a clip around the ear from the boss, it’s not his fault that I’ve not completed my objective of two years (although I have completed many others, note). He has actively encouraged me to sign up. Yet, you’d be amazed just how hard it is to find something that fits seamlessly around my 50-hour work week, recently appointed wife, work-in-progress house and high-maintenance cat.

But really, these days, there’s no excuse. Ouch – shot myself in the foot.

The plethora of courses on offer is on the increase – CPD to PHD. CAM to HMA – and the HR departments are starting to demand such abbreviations after employee names.

But why should an employer (or employee for that matter) want to invest valuable time and money into training and development when, in today’s volatile work place, a job for life is sniggered at and redundancies and head-hunting are interwoven seams of business life?

Charles Nixon, chairman of Cambridge Marketing Colleges – which has four colleges, in Cambridge, Guildford, Manchester and Bristol, with a new centre set to open in Glasgow in September – says that continuous development is vital to remain ahead of the game: “Whilst there are a lot of issues that don’t change, a lot of the ways that these issues are implemented do. If you read a text book from five or ten years ago, many of the essences will remain the same, but it is how they are put into practice, how you use elements of new technology and also the issues of legality that are important. These factors change constantly and it is important to keep abreast of such changes. You know what makes your job easy, and how to do your job. However, the two are not necessarily the same thing.”

Cambridge Marketing Colleges are unique in the fact that they only offer professional courses in marketing. CIM and the lesser known CAM (Communications Advertising and Marketing Foundation – which is backed by most major communications bodies, including the IPA, the Advertising Association, DMA, RAB, Royal Mail, ASA and the IPR) qualifications can be pursued at the colleges.

“You can spend your time learning through experience, but that is going to take time and depends on the depth to which your employer gives you exposure to new ideas and new areas,” says Nixon.

“Learning through a professional qualification is really an extension of that experiential route. It gives you exposure to case studies and scenarios that are normally outside your area of activity. It is a cross-fertilisation of ideas, fast-tracking your experience to some degree,” continues Nixon.

“Also, it does help to have qualifications in terms of job prospects. Increasingly, employers are looking for a professional qualification. It is not always specified but it shows an ability and willingness to learn. The CIM reports that more and more employers are beginning to specify a marketing qualification for marketers.”

However, despite this yearning for educated professionals, not every agency and consultancy is putting their hands in their pockets to send their staff on the relevant courses.

Jane Cumming, chair of the IPR, says: “We have noticed a reduction in delegates signing up for the courses offered by the IPR. A great deal of the reduction will be down to the economic downturn that has been experienced. However, it is never sensible to cut back on training just because money is tight. That is the time when you want to have a competitive edge over your rivals. One way to get that edge is by having and maintaining a well-trained team of staff.

“Training is often one of the first areas to be cut when times are tough, when really it should be one of the last.

“It comes down to attitude. Companies that don’t invest in training because they fear their staff leaving or being poached afterwards are the companies that will lose their staff. Employees want to develop. Often they will stay if they are offered good training as an incentive.”

Despite an industry-wide downturn, most professional bodies support Nixon and recommend keeping up with Continuous Professional Development, even once you have your highest-level qualification.

Tidalfire is an Adobe and Quark certified training company that specialises in web and internet training. Louise Scott, the company’s managing director, says: “Web and print training has seen a shift. Year on year, month on month we have seen change. Training for the design sector is growing. Perhaps it is not growing at a rate comparable to the volume of the design industry, yet it is picking up.

“I think, though, that many agencies are getting by by hiring competent staff who are self-training and able to migrate their skills. The market is healthier, but still the door is not being broken down. Training through a certified company, people will always walk away with a greater knowledge than that with which they arrived.

“The design community is perhaps quite unique. They are very competent – better than competent – in their skill set, yet conflicting skills can often hinder the process. Standardisation of applications and skill sets can lead to a more efficient studio.

“If you are not getting the appropriate training then you are lacking your edge. If you are not trained to the best of your abilities, then clients are not getting the service that they could be. I feel that, especially amongst smaller agencies, a huge opportunity is being missed to service clients in the areas that, for now, continue to be the preserve of the big agency. A heightened skill set often leads to heightened opportunity.”

Most delegates who attend training courses will be farmed out by their agencies, funded to the hilt. However, not all companies can afford the high cost that training demands. But this should not be a deterrent.

“We occasionally get delegates who are self-funding because their company won’t fund them,” says Nixon. “But in many instances companies will give them time for study leave, even though they can’t afford to pay them through. Other companies may give loans and some will pay for the course on its completion and the award of a qualification.

“But work-based assignments give the companies more ability to gain a positive, practical benefit. You obviously get a better-educated person and, through the course, solutions may be found to specific problems that the agency has.”

The IPA’s Continuous Professional Development accreditation scheme was initially devised in 1999 by agency members of the Training and Development Committee and the Agency Trainer Network to encourage best practice in people development in the most relevant and profitable way for the advertising industry.

The impetus was the perception by the client community that advertising had no professional standards, in growing contrast with other supplier professions.

It was felt by agency members that this perception impacted adversely on the industry’s ability to gain sufficient financial reward in return for its contribution to clients’ business success. It was also feared that a lack of professional standing was affecting the ability to recruit high-calibre graduate talent – essential to the future success of the industry – since development opportunity is placed firmly at the top of their list when selecting their first job.

Unlike many other CPD programmes, the IPA’s is designed for corporate entities rather than individuals, ensuring that the programme contributes to the business success of its members and also, in a sector where CPD is not mandatory to operate and where time pressures are high, it provides an impetus for individual participation which would not otherwise exist.

Liz Mansfield, training services manager at the IPA, says: “Commitment to the IPA’s Continuous Professional Development standard can bring tremendous benefits to an agency. As one of the major criteria of CPD is to ensure that all training and development relates to the company’s business objectives, this ensures that training becomes business-related and there is no wastage.

“Furthermore, more and more client companies are now requesting information in pitch tenders about people training and development standards, so CPD can be a useful new business aid as well as helping to recruit and retain staff.”

However, an investment in training doesn’t just help the company, it can help “raise the bar” industry-wide, making it more professional.

“Staff benefit too as the IPA’s CPD encourages training for all, not just the ‘rising stars’,” says Mansfield.

“CPD agency staff can now achieve qualifications (certificate and diploma) and the new low-cost, on-line training modules are only available to CPD agency staff.

Performance appraisals systems will be tightened up and CPD represents a commitment to staff, demonstrating that they have a career, not just a job, in the company.

“CPD will eventually become compulsory for IPA membership – it already is for new members,” continues Mansfield. “It is a pragmatic standard, not theoretical, and it doesn’t cost anything.”

A wide range of colleges and universities are also offering marketing courses, as demand grows. Fife College is just one of the many educational institutions that offers further development.

Beth Dickson, assistant principal for business development, at the college, says: “You only need to look at the increasing number of IiP accredited companies to see that training is important to employers. With the pace of change in the world of work not training staff is now no longer an option.

“Staff are an asset to their companies. Companies spend tens of thousands on their other assets, from IT systems to their facilities - so investment cannot be forgotten on their staff. Without the staff where would we be?

“Training benefits not only the employer but also the employee and the relevant industry in which the employee works. It’s a well know fact that individuals are attracted to employers who have a reputation for investing in the training of their staff. So, as an employer if you want to attract high calibre staff they will expect you to demonstrate that you invest in your current workforce.

“Some companies try this as a short term fix but find out to there cost that there is no long term gain in this. Indeed, it can be costly to defer training and this can, in some cases, lead to more expense and cost for a company.

“But when you buy a piece of equipment you think nothing about taking a warranty or a maintenance agreement. In this age of portfolio and flexible workers companies need to think about staff loyalty and commitment. It can be expensive to replace a member of staff not just in terms of the recruitment costs, but also in the induction of the new member of staff.”

(FINAL PAGE IN GREY BOX)

Steven Gardiner of Viacom Outdoor recently completed his CIM post graduate course after two years of hard study. The benefits, he explainss, are worth it.

I was at Barkers when I first looked into getting a professional Chartered Institute of Marketing qualification. When I phoned the CIM I was informed that Napier University was my closest certified centre.

I was assessed over the phone by Napier to roughly gauge my current level of knowledge and check that I was suitably qualified for the post-graduate course that I was applying for.

There were three levels of diploma offered, however, having completed the Henley management course whilst at News International, and with my previous marketing experience, I was deemed suitable for the post-graduate diploma.

There are a number of different options on how to advance with the course, ranging from the advanced rapid learning course, which completes all four modules in just six months, to the more flexible two year course. Having two kids and a demanding job, I went for the latter.

The courses are very flexible and the one I embarked on completed one module every six months over a two year period – essentially 13 nights, one a week for each module.

Many people doing the diploma were funding themselves and, in total, including books, the course cost just over £1000. I was lucky enough to be funded by my agency, Faulds. One of my conditions on joining Faulds from Barkers was that I continued with the course. Faulds were happy with that and offered to fund my education.

The agency actively encouraged me to continue in my development, and always encouraged staff to develop their skills out-with the agency environment.

The exams were tough as hell and there was only about a 50/50 success rate in the course – I had to take a re-sit in one of the modules. A lot of people don’t make it through though. And they certainly don’t hand out the qualifications on a plate.

But now, having completed the course, the benefits are evident and what I learnt really gets put to use in every day situations. The biggest benefit for me at the time, with the position of new business manager at Faulds, was the general understanding of the whole marketing process.

Talking to marketing directors was easier. I could approach them with a more informed opinion. I could ask the right questions. Delve into target audiences and discuss distribution. The diploma allowed me to look at the whole market place and speak the language of the true marketer. The course has really opened my mind. Everything that you learn may not be new – but a great deal is and what you learn really clarifies your thinking.

Already in my new role at Viacom elements of the training are coming to fruition. I would recommend it to anyone. But only those who have the commitment – it’s hard work; not like being a student again.

Steven Gardiner is agency account

manager at Viacom Outdoor in Edinburgh.

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