Learning on the job

By The Drum, Administrator

July 26, 2007 | 8 min read

But what about those currently working in the industry? Are they as prepared for their jobs as they could be? Well, a pigeon poll of bosses and employees in the marketing industry in Scotland reveals that the negative opinions of education do not mirror the views on the importance of in-the-job training. In fact, most in the industry sing the praises of a tailored workplace training regime. And many would say that training is vital to any modern business that wants to remain competitive.

“It’s often the case that you don’t know what you’ve been missing because you haven’t had it,” says Curtis Bollington of PMA Training, a global media training consultancy.

“We find that once people start training and realise how much they can gain from even a one or two-day workshop, their attitude towards training changes. They accept that no matter how much experience they’ve had, there’s always more to learn. Even an experienced person can develop bad habits, so training can benefit those who think they know it all, as well as those who have a conscious lack of skills. Sometimes new skills just need to be added due to the changing business environment.”

Continuous professional development (CPD) demonstrates a commitment to the role and the profession, according to Ray Jones of the Chartered Institute of Marketing. It also improves an individual’s CV and makes them more ‘sellable’ to future employers. Having a CPD programme is excellent evidence that they are serious about their career and profession.

“Professional body qualifications and courses are differentiated by their practitioner status as they focus on its application as a business skill and on integrating marketing theory into business strategy and practical application,” says Jones. “CPD also ensures that a marketing team is up to date with the latest thinking, key issues, buyer behaviour and trends.”

There are, of course, a range of courses on offer to those who work in the marketing fields. It is important to gauge the most relevant course, but once the training is under way there are a raft of advantages – for businesses and individuals alike.

Sharon McLellan, MD of Kissing With Confidence, says: “It has always been the case that employers understood the importance of maintaining the technical skills of their staff. However, there is now a realisation that with access to technical information being only a click away, it is the so-called emotional intelligence skills that are paramount. These are those based around listening, networking, communication, empathy and rapport.

“We assume that the coffee we order is going to be of the highest quality, we expect that the lawyer we employ is technically up to speed, and we expect that electronic goods will work – all these are a given. What separates the successful organisation from the just ‘all right’ is the experience the customer has.

“A job for life no longer exists in a globalised world. To be competitive, individuals must be prepared to learn new skills throughout their lives and appreciate that they may experience a number of careers within different sectors. However, it is equally incumbent on employers to nurture and provide education for their employees.

“People very rarely leave an organisation just because of money. Often it is because they don’t feel valued or appreciated, or they don’t see a clear path to advancement.”

Skills training can increase the self-value of an employee – particularly if they are driving their own development – by identifying their own skills gaps and looking for courses or workshops to fill them.

“This approach also indicates a certain amount of ambition,” says Bollington. “And ambition is normally chased for the rewards it delivers. An employee’s sense of value will grow as their skills or qualifications increase, especially if their skills level rises above that of their colleagues.”

An increasing number of communications professionals take professional qualifications to ensure they have the theory and knowledge to support what they do at work. But it is also a way of advancing their career and salary prospects, according to Janka Sykorova of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR).

However, Sykorova says it’s not just about the money: “A recent graduate said to me, ‘If anybody questions the value of PR theory, let them know that after only two sessions of the CIPR diploma I was able to use what I had learned at a job interview to justify the creation of a PR position at one of the UK’s biggest private client stockbrokers – and to argue that the best person to do it would be me.’

“PR, like any other profession, requires its practitioners to have specific knowledge and up-to-date skills. On-the-job training is an important part of becoming an experienced professional and a great way to learn practical skills.

“Gaining a professional qualification, however, provides a more structured approach to learning not only the practical skills but also the theory needed to do a job more effectively. Employees are able to put what they learn into practice immediately, allowing employers to benefit from having a fully skilled professional on their team.”

The merits of a good education are evident at all stages of development – especially in an environment as young and as quickly changing as the digital industry. For that reason, Glasgow-based agency Dog Digital has set up an annual scholarship programme aimed at students at the Digital Design Studio within The Glasgow School of Art. Each year the programme awards nearly £3,000 to help fund course fees or living expenses. As part of the programme, the student has the opportunity to carry out a summer internship with Dog Digital.

“Our sector is growing so fast that we need to encourage new talent to sustain the digital and graphics arena,” says Gerry McCusker, joint MD of Dog Digital. “The scholarship is about facilitating an opportunity for young people attracted to this industry, by offering financial help and the chance to develop their skills in a real working environment.”

However, McCusker agrees that training should not stop as soon as your enter employment. It is something that needs to be a constant. “You need to invest in talent, but, in this field, you need to develop a wider knowledge too. And that means you have to invest in different ways.

“The digital world needs to develop both sides of the brain – technical and creative. You need to apply logic to the creative ideas and creativity to the logic. You also need to appreciate the need to research, to allow staff the opportunity to search out new skills, thinking, ideas and technology that can help them in what they do.

“But then you also need to let them to translate that information to their colleagues. You need to create a community where individuals learn from and teach each other – very much like the internet itself.”

Training isn’t cheap though, with professional courses often costing thousands rather than hundreds of pounds. This is a cost few employers can easily afford. But despite the major outlay, it is still deemed an investment into the company’s most important asset: the staff.

“Courses should be funded by the employer,” says Bollington. “An investment in training is an investment in the trainee. If an employee receives this investment, it gives them an increased sense of value. The company, and the employee, benefit – an employee who feels more valued is likely to be more loyal.”

However, training is not just a financial cost – the cost in time is often great too. Jill McCulloch of Cambridge Marketing College says: “Many of our delegates are already working incredibly hard in full-time roles. Our courses are quite rigorous so we encourage delegates to pace themselves, to maintain the study habit and work through the course to reach chartered status. It is so easy to take a break and never get back to it.”

Jones agrees: “To hold chartered marketer status, members have to demonstrate 35 hours of training and development a year. However, CPD should be continuous and in response to developments and issues. It is important for marketers to train for the future rather than just in reaction to a current need. Marketers, however, will need to take ownership of their CPD programmes as they require forward planning and commitment.”


- 25 per cent of chartered marketers feel they can command a higher salary.

- 76 per cent believe that working for an organisation that invests in their ongoing learning and development is an important factor in retaining them as an employee.

- 88 per cent of marketers felt that in the future it will be even more important to develop their marketing skills.

- 87 per cent of respondents felt formal marketing training helped them to significantly deepen their understanding of the marketing profession.

- 54 per cent felt chartered marketer status gave them more credibility and influence in an organisation, while 45 per cent took on more responsibility.


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