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Invest in STEM talent earlier advises TeenTech's Philbin

At a time when so many great career opportunities are completely invisible, it is incumbent upon companies, including those in the advertising industry, to connect with young people, their parents and their teachers to help them understand the necessary skills, experience and attitudes required. This is the advice Maggie Philbin, former BBC presenter and CEO of TeenTech, delivered directly to the advertising industry and IPA President Tom Knox at the annual IPA Members’ Lunch today (13 April 2016).


Drawing on her experience leading TeenTech, which helps young teenagers see the wide range of career possibilities in Science, Engineering and Technology, Philbin explained to the audience that it not enough for companies to “parachute into a school, deliver an 'inspiring talk' and clear off.” Instead, Philbin believes the real difference comes from building on-going relationships with educational institutions; providing schools, colleges and universities with opportunities to recognise, nurture and recruit much needed tech talent.  

The ways the industry can reach potential tech talent, according to Philbin, include:

Engaging young people:

  • Making tech roles visible and better understood - Can teenagers see the real opportunities available?  Do they understand what you need? Do you understand what you need?
  • Providing work experience, work placements and quality apprenticeships – collaborating where necessary
  • Sponsoring as well as mentoring

Engaging educational institutions:

  • Providing ambassadors
  • Running interactive activities
  • Hosting teacher events

Becoming an influencer:

  • Aligning your CSR with your company business
  • Volunteering with organisations like TeenTech, Code Club, STEMNET
  • Joining steering groups

Within her presentation, Philbin also highlighted the gender stereotypes and preconceptions of people working in Science and Tech. Although there have been slow improvements she explained, these still perpetuate: at every TeenTech event since 2008, which have involved over 20,000 Year 8s and Year 9s, on arrival the teenagers are asked to draw a picture of an individual working in the STEM sphere. In 2008 only 8/300 from each event drew a woman, in 2016 this figure has increased to 50/300.

Says Philbin: “At the moment a huge amount of talent goes to waste because young people are unaware of the opportunities and do not recognise their own potential. Sharing your enthusiasm for the industry and, most importantly, helping young people see how they already have the necessary qualities which means they would very much enjoy being part of it is a responsibility for us all.”  

Says IPA President Tom Knox: “The advertising industry is a people business. Our talent is the engine that drives us. As Maggie has highlighted, it is therefore imperative that we have the right processes and practices in place to attract, retain and reward the most highly skilled and diverse set of individuals. They will fuel our success, future-proof our industry and, as my presidential agenda sets out to achieve, help to ensure we are ‘here for good.”  

The advice outlined by Maggie Philbin dovetails into a number of diversity and talent-focussed initiatives run by the IPA. These include the IPA’s Make The Leap campaign; the IPA Women of Tomorrow Awards, support of the #RedrawThe Balance campaign and the IPA’s Admission internship programme which offers Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) students paid placements within member agencies.

Also at the lunch, the IPA granted seven Fellowships to industry practitioners in recognition of their exceptional and prolonged contribution to the IPA and awarded forty-one member agencies CPD Gold accreditation for their outstanding professional development programmes.  

Have your say by joining the conversation on Twitter at #STEMtalent and #AdValues

 Also announced at the IPA's Members' Lunch were a record number of CPD Gold accredited agencies and IPA Fellowships.

Last updated 21/04/2016

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