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DMA pilot scheme aims to tackle industry’s digital skills gap


By Chris Sutcliffe, Senior reporter

July 10, 2022 | 5 min read

The Data and Marketing Association (DMA) is launching a pilot scheme that aims to build training into the marketing industry’s workflow.

A sign reading 'Love To Learn' to illustrate the DMA's pilot scheme that encourages marketing companies to upskill workers in digital skills

The DMA’s pilot scheme encourages marketing companies to upskill workers / Tim Mossholder

The scheme, which incorporates agencies and brands, challenges the companies involved to set aside an hour for training each week in an attempt to overcome the digital skills gap that is a drag on the industry.

The digital skills gap has been repeatedly cited as being an impediment to the UK’s ability to compete globally. More than two-thirds (69%) of UK business leaders believe their organization is currently facing a digital skills gap, and the situation has been exacerbated by Brexit.

Rachel Aldighieri, managing director of DMA UK, said the pilot is the first part in a multi-stage campaign to fix issues that prevent young people from entering the industry.

“What a lot of research is identifying more broadly – not just within our industry, but in the economy as a whole – is a real challenge around digital data skills. As an organization we’ve always ... stayed focused on the growth of our industry, and it’s become apparent that this is really critical,” she explained. “We need to ensure that people have the right skills. Good businesses are able to embrace technology, and technology is critical to data and marketing.”

Aldighieri added that the DMA will be working with those members involved in the pilot scheme to identify the challenges involved in introducing a standardized amount of on-the-job training, and will then use that feedback to work out “how we can work with the industry to then roll that out much more widely.”

Last year a cross-industry body published a joint letter recommending that the government provides provisional funding for sector-specific upskilling in an attempt to retain and attract talent into marketing.

At the time, Jane Frost CBE, chief executive of the Market Research Society (MRS), said: “The recovery and growth of the research sector are being jeopardized by a shortage of skills. Companies in our sector, particularly SMEs, are being priced out in a bidding war for talent. Associations like ourselves do not need to consult employers on their needs or familiarize ourselves with the market, because employers are our members.”

To remedy that situation, the DMA is encouraging the entire marketing industry to build training into its weekly workflow. In doing so, Aldighieri believes marketing will become more attractive to cohorts that prioritize learning and enjoying their work.

“What we’re trying to strive for is a learning culture, to ensure everyone is focused on continuous improvement built in a structured way ... so people are able to easily access that learning but still get permission to do that,” she continued.

“Chatting to Mark Evans at Direct Line, he raised a really important point because that’s something that they had a great time building, that learning culture and providing the time for their employees to do it. We were talking about, in terms of fulfillment, making sure that people feel they’re getting the best out of their days, they’re working really well. But he came back to this notion that people want to enjoy [work].”

Aldighieri said that the sense of fulfillment enabled by training is as vital to the success of the marketing industry as financing, or any other part of a business’s operations. She acknowledges too that the marketing industry has typically recruited from a narrow pool of potential candidates, and that it is only over the past few years that the industry has acknowledged that university graduates are not the only potential entrants.

Beyond the initial pilot study, the DMA will seek to measure retention and satisfaction within the marketing industry to chart whether upskilling fixes some of the endemic issues. It is also introducing a ‘people pillar’ to its code, which seeks to increase focus on diversity and personal skills issues within marketing.

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