Growth through Talent

What does research say about the digital skills gap?

 19th Feb 2020


IAB UK Digital Skills Gap Research - Why it’s a problem and how do we fix it? 


IAB UK partnered up with Middlesex University in attempt to delve deeper into the uprise of the skills gap in the ad industry and provide advice to help the industry educate, train and attract individuals with the right skills to match demand. 


Let’s take a look at what they found and what they’re suggesting. 


Key findings: 

  • Finding up-to-date skills is a big challenge
  • Shortage most pronounced at junior levels
  • Prominent skills gap in areas with rapid market adoption
  • It’s also difficult to retain highly skilled staff
  • 88% of senior industry experts struggle to find qualified talent with adequate digital skills
  • 78% find it challenging to retain highly skilled digital staff 
  • The skills gap is most frequently found in rapidly adopting markets, roles like programmatic, social media and online content creation - 65% seeing the shortage mostly at junior and intermediary levels
  • 46% of surveyed respondents claim that new graduates are not fully equipped to undertake careers in the digital marketing industry
  • Data and advanced analytics are amongst the more important skills and more difficult to find right now, whereas AI/AR/VR skills seem to be more promising career paths to take in the future


Why is there a digital talent shortage? 

  • Difficulties in keeping up with the rapidly evolving tech industry  
  • Insufficient training in schools and universities that don’t meet the industry needs 
  • Not all available digital marketing opportunities are exposed to job seekers 


Pivotal Insights: 

  • We see strong competition for analytical talent - unfortunately, demand outstrips supply 
  • We see a number of our clients pivoting away from hiring roles purely reliant on softer skills and creating more hybrid positions
  • Clients are looking for candidates who have more agile and versatile skills, who can deliver analytically and technically
  • The biggest challenge we face in recruitment is hiring managers looking to hire like-for-like, straight from a competitor - this is restrictive for the industry and limits diversity 
  • Developing ways to better assess and understand transferable skills, we could unlock huge talent pools of people who would love to work in digital - it’s a great industry 



  • The digital industry should work together with universities to expose students to more advertising, media and data science skills that will be in demand and necessary for them to succeed in the future – if you like to see how Pivotal has been working with IAB to promote the Digital Advertising industry to 16-18-year-olds, click here
  • The industry should also work on educating potential employees on the array of opportunities this industry brings and why this is a desirable industry to have a career in 
  • Implementing new and modern forms of recruiting, ensuring that hiring managers are up-to-date with the progress in the digital industry so job roles match candidate expectations - if you’d like to know more about how to optimise your hiring process, click here 
  • Aim to provide an inclusive working culture and focus on establishing long-term career goals and progression opportunities for those with digital skills so that employees keep up with the ever-evolving media and tech industry - this will help retain your employees 


If you’d like to dive deeper into the Digital Skills Gap Research, you can find it here


In our fast-paced industry, finding the right candidates with skills to match your demand is pivotal to the growth of your business. Let us help you find the right employees for your business. Get in contact with our team here.


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