Hey–it’s not me asking this question. It’s a topic that’s coming up with clients and friends I’ve talked with in town for a little while now.

Is there a social media skills gap among younger folks here in Minneapolis?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Fenced In, Part 3

The bigger issue is this: Why are we even having this discussion?

I thought young people were supposed to be all over social media? They grew up with smartphones. They were born with Facebook profiles. They’re on Snapchat! They have mad social media skillz.

How can it be possible that we have a skills gap with young social media talent in this market?

I’ll tell you how. A few critical factors may be at play:

1: The education system isn’t helping.

How many classes do you think PR and marketing majors have in digital or social media marketing right now? Maybe one? Two at most? Meanwhile, almost every job I see now in PR/marketing has an extensive list of digital and social responsibilities. Those two things aren’t lining up. It’s not close, in fact. Our colleges and universities simply aren’t doing a good enough job in preparing these kids for their jobs when it comes to digital and social media marketing. Now, I know academics will tell you job training isn’t part of the college experience (especially for a liberal arts degree). And, to that, I would say, if I’m forking over $150,000-200,000 for a four-year degree, you better damn well prepare me just a little for a job where I can make some semblance of money. Because I’m going to be paying off those loans for a long, long time.

2: No viable training options.

Go ahead. Look around. Do YOU see any viable social media marketing training opportunities for young people? PRSA doesn’t offer anything here. Locally, orgs like MIMA, AMA and AdFed don’t either (although I still believe MIMA has a big potential role here, if it wants it). So, where is agency or corporate marketing leadership supposed to turn for training on social media marketing? To be honest, I’m not sure. I have no easy answers. But, I’m getting the question more and more from clients, partners and friends.

3: Senior leaders (largely) aren’t helping.

Another problem: Senior PR (and, in many cases, marketing leaders) aren’t in a position to help coach up younger folks either. Why? Because they themselves need coaching up. Certainly, there are exceptions. People like Jen Swanson at Children’s Hospitals & Clinics, Kevin Hunt at General Mills, and Holly Spaeth at Polaris come to mind. But, to a larger extent, the senior-level people managing these junior-level folks don’t have the chops to train them up. The fact is: They may need the training just as much as the junior folks do.

So–what do you think? Is there a skills gap? Are junior to mid-level agency folks up-to-speed with social media skills?

Sure, people are FILLING these roles. But, are they the RIGHT people? Do they have the right skills? Are they staying up-to-speed with the changes in the industry?

I’m not so sure. Not based on what I’m hearing.

Now, again, not saying this is a blanket statement. Surely, there are a number of talented people with big social media chops here in Minneapolis. People like Katie Miller at OLSON, Danny Olson at Weber Shandwick, and Morgan Hay-Chapman at space150, just to name a few. I’ve been working with Ryan Roddy and Sarah Frield at Broadhead, who are both very smart.

I’d be interested to hear what you think (even if you live outside Minneapolis–sure this might be an issue in other large markets, too).