Manchester focus: What does the industry need to do to nurture and attract creative talent?

As part of The Drum's Blackwell's Britain series of regional features, we caught up with a cross-section of Manchester influencers to shine a spotlight the issues facing the creative community in the city.

The region is now competing on a global stage, but how can it attract and keep talent on its doorstep?

Some industry experts from the area shared their thoughts with The Drum.

Dave Palmer, executive creative director and owner, Love

We’ve found that producing good work for global clients attracts the best talent. And the better the talent, the higher the calibre of work and clients, so it’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation.

There’s a common complaint about the standard of creative talent in all the regions, not just Manchester.

It’s true that in the past there’s been an element of wooing London creatives who decide to relocate up north, often to start a family.

However, the tide is turning. Talented people are attracted by global clients and a high-standard of creative work, regardless of geography.

Just recently we hired a fantastic graduate from Cumbria who had done the rounds of the London agencies, had several offers, yet chose us over them because he doesn’t have to move down south to fulfil the same level of creative ambition.

By focusing on producing the best work for the biggest brands, the

talent will follow.

Nicky Unsworth, CEO, BJL

The educational infrastructure is well-known for being very strong and the colleges and universities in the region understand how to make the most of the potential benefits gained by industry and education working together.

So I guess if you look to the next level, the way to retain, nurture and attract talent is to ensure businesses thrive and are there to provide career opportunities to support growing talent as well as focusing on a mentoring style of staff development.

Nigel Papworth, managing director, Refinery

The problem is there isn’t enough talent emerging fast enough in Manchester to feed the demand. This applies to all areas of creative, not just digital.

The industry itself, through various organisations, is attempting to provide training and development, but much more outside investment is required to maintain the growth curve.

We’ve had great success with the new junior recruits we’ve taken on and nurtured over the last two years and are looking for more.

We’d just like a bigger pond to fish in.

Jill Fear, partnership manager, advertising and marketing communications, Creative Skillset

The vibrant creative sector means new employment opportunities are now more visible, but industry still needs to foster close links with education to take full advantage of the best young local talent.

The Greater Manchester City Action Group, made up of employers, training and education providers, Manchester LEP and the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, collaborates to offer new solutions for the region.

Creative Skillset’s expanding Trainee Finder Programme is matching young talent to the increased drama production taking place in the area and we are helping The Sharp Project and ITV to access government co-investment in training, through the Employer Ownership of Skills pilot (EOP).

Simon Vaughan, senior creative director, Amaze

The industry should look at building on its established links with education, looking to create a benchmark for the region by offering a new type of citywide development scheme, for example, by establishing a unique ‘Manchester Creative Apprentice’ that sets a high bar for entry, but rewards with a higher standard of investment and opportunity for new talent.

We should also look at low-cost ideas such as the ‘Open Studio’ days that ran in conjunction with Liverpool’s ‘Designival’ conference.

It provides a great opportunity to open the doors to new talent, allowing them to experience first-hand the quality of agency life available in the city.

Andy Cheetham, creative director, CheethamBellJWT

Currently there's a lack of midweight creative talent on the Manchester scene.

The last five years haven’t presented many opportunities to hire young teams, who would have now grown into middleweight teams.

This means that we’re all now recruiting from a small talent pool. Businesses need to attract great people from outside the area and fill that void.

Manchester needs to be known for great and interesting creative work - work that gets people out of bed in the morning.

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