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Suffolk-based digital marketing agency - grows.

Mon Oct 25 2021

GLO’s new Digital Director plans to bridge the Norfolk & Suffolk digital skills gap

The digital skills gap set to cost the UK a total of £141 billion is widening in East Anglia. With an ‘estimated 10,000 new and replacement roles needed for Norfolk and Suffolk’s tech industry before 2024’, and a fundamental lack of individuals with the skill sets required to fill them, solving the ‘shortage’ has never been more vital.

Mind the Gap

The UK is facing a growing talent crisis. Restricted by an ageing population, a shrinking talent flow from Europe at the hands of Brexit, and insufficient digital education at all levels, booming industries requiring tech-literate workers have begun to report significant barriers in employing qualified individuals locally.

Now, under the continuing influence of COVID-19, this underlying workforce weakness is more obvious than ever before. In the face of 2020’s global lockdowns and resultant buying behavioural shifts, over 85,000 UK businesses have taken the leap and moved online - contributing to a meteoric 30% year-on-year rise in e-commerce sales. Despite this golden opportunity for digital success; it is clear that there were not, and still are not enough individuals with the correct skillset to support this technological shift to its full potential. In fact, a survey conducted by Microsoft the very same year reported that 69% of UK leaders surveyed admitted the existence of a digital skills gap within their organisation at the time, whilst 70% expected to experience one in the coming 12 months.

The Effect of the Digital Skills Crisis on Business

In broad terms, the aftermath of this lack of training and skills will come in the form of reduced productivity, economic decline, a potential loss of global authority in tech-driven industries, and hundreds of billions in lost revenue across almost all sectors: with key issues lying in education, experience, and the resultant supply and demand imbalance on the job market.

As demand overtakes supply, employing suitable workers for digital roles is set to become a less accessible task for many organisations; negatively impacting growth and economic recovery moving out of the depths of the pandemic, whilst encouraging outsourcing to locations such as France and China.

Where skilled school leavers and graduates are required to stabilize the situation, many current and future candidates fail to meet even the entry-level requirements of existing and emergent digital roles, whilst lacking more general digital skills. According to a 2018 survey, only ‘12% of executives believe that graduates have enough digital skills’. This imbalance in education is set to increase sharply in the midterm, with studies revealing that completion of IT and related digital subjects at GCSE level has declined by a total of 40% since 2015.

Solving the Shortage

So, how should the crisis be solved? Improved education and training appear to be simple solutions, but businesses and prospective tech workers face barriers of their own. Whilst 70% of employees expect their employers to assist in bridging the gap through on-the-job training, just 50% of employers surveyed stated they are able to provide such education.

Ultimately, nurturing a workforce with strong skillsets in key growth areas is vital to the recovery and strengthening of the UK’s economy.  Effective education and upskilling tailored to the requirements of both businesses and employees are likely to play a vital role in addressing the crisis, with qualified and degree apprenticeships currently balancing both at the frontline of change.

In providing learners and employees with the opportunity to acquire an accredited university degree or qualification while gaining essential on-the-job experience, higher apprenticeships provide a key opportunity to ensure that employers have access to a large pool of skilled and experienced talent - helping close the gap.

These innovative work-based programmes fund the development of critical digital skills, widening participation in tech-related higher education, and producing a diverse crop of participants: particularly women (an underrepresented group in digital industries).

GLO’s Plan for the Norfolk & Suffolk Skills Gap

Although the effects of the UK’s ‘digital skills gap’ can be seen across almost all existing sectors, its influence is particularly prevalent in the fast-emerging realm of digital marketing. Despite its exponential growth throughout the 2010s and continued success in the face of COVID-19, it is reported that 46% of UK employers believe that most new graduates are not equipped to take up careers in the digital marketing sector, and have difficulty in finding junior and intermediary workers with the right skillsets.

Suffolk-based digital marketing agency Generate Leads Online (GLO) plans to change this. Using a higher apprenticeship education and upskilling programme, GLO plans to help close the gap in Norfolk and Suffolk, and cultivate a new generation of local digital talent with the assistance of their new Digital Director, Tony Southgate.

It has been over one year since GLO’s first apprentice joined the team in the digital marketing degree apprenticeship branch of the company programme. Since then, the innovative agency has hired three more; and supports a growing group of ‘Kickstart’ employees, providing invaluable graduate experience in an industry valuing portfolios and results.

John Parnell, GLO’s founder and Managing Director speaks highly of the programme’s success thus far, stating:
“Having the opportunity to partner up with leading higher education institutions, such as Anglia Ruskin University and Cambridge Marketing College, to deliver high-quality apprenticeship programmes for ambitious people looking to kick start their career in digital marketing has been instrumental to the growth of our team.”
“We’ve been impressed with the value our new apprentices have brought to the company and would highly recommend business owners to consider employing young talent through this initiative, not only to add a valuable asset to their team but also to enable those individuals to launch their career with the best of both worlds; practical and academic training.”

Meet Tony Southgate

GLO’s higher apprenticeship programme is now under the leadership of experienced digital marketing director, Tony Southgate, who has made immediate plans to elevate and scale up the scheme to provide mutual benefit to both local talent, and the agency.

Having built an extensive digital background at publishing giant, Archant, Tony holds invaluable knowledge across the areas of learning and development, sales training, and, of course, digital marketing. His dedication to closing the digital skills gap, however, originated before his start at GLO.

Throughout lockdown, Tony combined his longtime passion for continuous education and skills development with his own knowledge to deliver industry insight to businesses across Norfolk and Suffolk throughout a successful webinar series; working to build the digital skillsets of others.

Now, Tony hopes to bring this knowledge to GLO’s apprentices, and in his new appointment, has already dedicated a significant portion of time to improving the skills and knowledge of both new and existing workers across all areas of digital marketing; from web development to copywriting.

When asked about his current and future work at GLO, Tony stated:

‘I am truly passionate about making sure staff reach their full potential and the opportunity to work for an agency that has a passion for developing talent is something I couldn't turn down.’
‘Apprenticeships are key to ensuring the UK’s recovery from the economic effects of COVID-19, and its future as a key player in digital industries. In producing a new generation of digital talent - particularly within high growth specialisms - they offer a unique opportunity for both businesses and employees to enjoy a mutually beneficial system of education, experience, and labour. Their popularity is rightfully growing - GLO alone have tripled their team in under one year using apprenticeships and grad schemes  - and so, it’s vital we ensure that the best possible experience is offered throughout. That is what I am here to do.’
‘I am looking forward to working with the team, the customers and businesses of Norfolk and Suffolk to help spread the word, educate and develop in digital and help close the skills gap once and for all.’

Discover GLO’s Current Digital Marketing Degree Apprenticeships

Are you considering a career in the digital realm? GLO offer a  range of accredited higher apprenticeship positions across the digital marketing field throughout the year on Indeed and LinkedIn, with applications varying in accordance with apprenticeship type and level. Head to their website to learn about their current digital marketing apprenticeships!

For more information on apprenticeship programmes, visit the government’s Further Education and Skills page online.

This article was submitted by the business as part of MENTA's aim to share SME business news.  To have your business news featured, please email:

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