What are today’s students looking for?
After spending time and money studying for a qualification, marketing graduates want to leave academia with skills that are useful in the job market. They want to be able to apply for a job and have confidence they will get an interview - or even better - land the job!
Unfortunately, that’s not the case for many. The world of work can be daunting and the marketing sector has rapidly evolved to include specializations such as paid search, content marketing, social media marketing, and data analytics amongst others.
What students want from the higher education sector is a focus on skills that will make them more employable and invest in activities that benefit their future.
Cengage’s ’Graduate Employability’ report revealed that 66 percent of graduates want more real-world experience and believe colleges should prioritize:
Experiential learning and access to online learning and certification programs
Mentorships and introduction to local business leaders
Today’s marketers not only need more advanced digital skills than other graduates but are expected to have them. In addition to real-world experience, marketing students want:
A working understanding of digital technologies and platforms
A certification or credential that boosts career prospects and employers recognize
Essential soft skills such as analytical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, etc.
“68% of students in the UK don’t understand what skills are needed to start their career while 50% are unsure of how to search for a specific job”
Microsoft & LinkedIn’s report ’Degree + Digital’
What skills do today’s employers need from graduates?
Businesses need work-ready and socially skilled marketing graduates who can use current technologies. Analysis by Marketing Week found that there’s a steep rise in demand for marketers with skills in social media, ecommerce, and data analytics.
While WeForum predicts that by 2025 the most sought-after skills will be analytical thinking, creativity, and flexibility and the top emerging professions include data and artificial intelligence, content creation, and cloud computing.
World Economic Forum Top Skills 2025
World Economic Forum Top Skills 2025
The demand for digital know-how amongst marketers is only going to get more intense. Customers are getting pickier and more demanding, wanting content and messaging that is personalized and relevant. This will mean an increase in automation, improvement in user experience, and customer service through AI-led technology.
So how can universities and colleges create work-ready marketing graduates? And what are the solutions to the challenges they face?
What challenges do educators face?
Just 28% of business leaders believe the education system offers adequate digital training according to Microsoft’s report, ‘Unlocking the UK’s Potential with Digital Skills’.
In the United States, an ITIF report found that the situation is even worse with one-third of workers lacking digital skills, 13 percent having no digital skills, and 18 percent having limited digital skills.
So what challenges do higher education institutions face when it comes to offering digital marketing skills?
1) Outdated marketing curriculum -. Many colleges and universities do not update curricula annually or even every two years making content out-of-date. In many cases, digital marketing is not included at all.
In a study of undergraduate programs reported in the Journal of Marketing, the authors reported:
“We find that a persistently large proportion telemarketing list of schools have no course offerings that explicitly address digital marketing or marketing analytics. This is deeply concerning, as it suggests that accredited business schools of all sizes, including some larger programs, are failing to train marketing students for the realities of the business world and likely exacerbating the digital skills gap.”
2) Finding the right teaching talent - There can often be a skills gap amongst university/training teams in digital marketing which makes it difficult to teach up-to-date digital marketing knowledge to students.
3) Knowing what employers want - There can be a mismatch between what employers want from a graduate and what a university or college believes they want.
4) Time limitations - Resources can be limited in higher education and it takes time to create or update course content. Often there are not the resources available to do this.
5) Difficulties in cross-collaboration - It can often be a challenge to create a cohesive plan across the institution and get relevant departments and functions on the same page.