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Digital skills gap a threat to economy

Thursday, September 04 10:39:21

Ireland's marketing professionals lag way behind their European counterparts when it comes to digital skills, which represents a threat to our competitiveness, according to the Digital Marketing Institute.

It said that its research exposes for the first time how Irish professionals measure up when it comes to their digital skills for business, finding that 83pc of people with a marketing remit failed to achieve entry-level competency.

They also scored a well below par 34pc lower than international peers.

Some 622 people (380 in Ireland) were assessed using 54 questions across the core digital marketing disciplines of strategy and planning, mobile, search, display, email and social media marketing.

Digital skills competency in Ireland was found to be 30pc lower than entry-level competency - that expected of a junior digital executive, or anyone undertaking basic digital campaigns tactics for a business.

With a predicted 150,000 digital jobs and an internet economy worth E21.1bn by 20202, co-founder and director of the DMI, Ian Dodson believes that the implications for the Irish economy are significant.

"The digital economy has taken centre stage in Ireland's economic recovery with the industry creating hundreds of jobs every month. If we can't provide suitably skilled professionals to fill these positions Ireland could stand to lose its advantage as a European digital hub and as European headquarters for many of the major digital companies. The threat is even more acute as the talent pool grows in emerging economies, says Dodson.

Don O'Leary, Twitter's Director of Sales for the UK and Ireland says: "Digital marketing has revolutionised the way business connects with their target market. If Irish business leaders don't embrace and invest in this change, they will lose out to International competitors who are turning this opportunity into a distinct competitive advantage".

However Dodson adds: "Where there's a threat there's a opportunity. On the positive side the skills gap narrows notably in the discipline of mobile marketing suggesting Irish businesses could perhaps leapfrog older practices and specialise in emergent mobile marketing techniques, which are increasingly driving marketing spend.

The economic threat posed by our failure to keep pace with other countries is further highlighted by recent figures showing how over 60pc (E3.6bn of E5.9bn) of Irish people's online spend is currently going overseas.

In the retail sector alone online revenues are growing at over 20 times the rate of traditional high street retail business3; but digital skills are not keeping pace. The Digital Marketing Institute study reveals that marketing professionals in the retail sector scored only 36 per cent in the digital skills assessment, lower than agriculture (38 per cent) and public sector (37 per cent).

Speaking of the report Suzanne Delaney, Head of Digital, Ogilvy and Mather says: "The report identifies some of the key challenges we are facing in the marketing and advertising sector and the impact of technology on brands, media and business. Today's digital sector could potentially play a huge role in driving a sustained economic recovery but for this to happen it is important to think of long and short -term solutions. This includes embedding digital into business strategy, teaching digital skills and analytics, offering work experience and encouraging companies to take on apprentices all of which will help close the gap and build digital competencies." For more visit: www.businessworld.ie