Squeezing yourself onto a packed tube, greeting a buzzing office, catching up with the crowd around the water cooler… the face of daily office life in London has completely changed since the sudden onset of the pandemic back in March 2020. Swapping early morning commutes for logins from the sofa, and spontaneous conversation for planned Zoom meetings, we’ve all had to get accustomed to the fundamentals of remote working.
Yet despite such challenges in catastrophic circumstances, some unexpected benefits arose. No longer tied to the grind, many of us reported feeling more energised to work, were able to spend more time with family and felt happier with our general work/life balance.
Remote working also opened up opportunities for businesses to collaborate with and employ talent without being restricted by physical locations. In the production world, technology was advanced at super speed to allow teams to shoot remotely and communicate with clients in real time.
But as time went on, the disadvantages of purely remote work became ever more apparent. We started to crave the natural flow of in-person interaction and “Zoom fatigue” became a well-known term within our vocabulary. For some, a return to the office is the best way forward. But for many others, a new hybrid way of working - between office and home - is the solution. For others still, offices have been completely abandoned or downsized in favour of remote working or optional hot desking.
But what does this disruption mean for the future of our industry, and in particular, how is this impacting young talent and their training as they enter this unfamiliar landscape?
LBB speaks with Tom Morgan - head of client services at ENVY Advertising, and responsible for entry level recruitment and talent management - to discuss the topic and find out how the company aims to tackle these issues through its longstanding Academy programme.
A Bump In The Road
In the advertising world, young talent would usually learn from experienced colleagues by working in close proximity and shadowing creatives for the day - quite logistically challenging when working from home.
“I don’t think you can ever surpass quality learning over and above sitting next to an expert/ creative who is actively working on a project,” Tom affirms. “The creative industries are very much people oriented and highly sociable. Therefore, work experience placements, networking events and being physically present where possible are all significant precursors to getting your foot in the door. These have virtually been eradicated over the past 12 months. Yes there have been virtual online events/talks/seminars to connect with the industry but these have not really been for recruitment. It’s been very challenging for young people wanting to break into any industry at all given the circumstances.”
To help redirect this concerning trajectory, ENVY reactivated its Academy in October 2020, after having to close during the first lockdown. As part of the company’s commitment to train the next generation of creatives, ENVY Academy has been working with universities across the country for over 12 years now, offering education and support to young talent.
“ENVY Academy is the brainchild of our creative director and co-founder Natascha Cadle, and it was created for two reasons,” Tom states. “The first is to give back by offering our expertise and nurturing the talent of the future - we also run an internal training scheme which is open to all staff to ensure we are providing the best support. The second reason is to overcome the challenges we face in finding the right people for our roles - we promote from within, so our runners are vitally important.”
“Although we could not sit our runners side by side with senior talent these past few months, alternative Covid-safe solutions were created to enable young talent to train and develop their skills. We keep dialogue between students and ENVY as open as possible and have ramped up our online CV clinics and one-on-one chats with students looking for advice during the pandemic. We also took part in the Royal Television Society virtual careers fair and more recently, a series of online talks with universities across the country.”
He continues: “We not only advise the students, but also the course leaders/tutors as they are the ones delivering the course content after all, so any information we can provide in the direction of technology or post production workflow is always beneficial. I was pleasantly surprised to see runner progression in the final few months of 2020 when junior vacancies appeared, leading to six new hires.”
Opportunities On The Horizon
With roughly 10-15 direct hires from work experience placements, and an average of 34 runners promoted to junior roles annually (pre-pandemic), ENVY Academy has seen consistent growth year on year, in tandem with the company’s own expansion.
Students that take part are given invaluable first-hand experience into how a post production facility operates as a business and are exposed to the rich variety of roles and projects available in such a studio, as well as the development of soft skills and internal networking.
“You only have to look in our Master Control Rooms (MCR) for offline/online/audio/VFX or production support desks to see the scores of Academy graduates, all of them progressing from runner roles and all crucial to the company’s success,” Tom highlights. “A product of the ENVY Academy myself many years ago, I fully appreciate the importance and significance of this kind of exposure to the industry. The rest of my development internally has been down to my predecessor and the founders of ENVY so I can account for just how transformative the opportunity is.”
Noting that circumstances are extra tough as we come out of the pandemic, Tom shares, “Being at the start of your career can be a daunting time for any young person, but right now things may feel particularly unsteady. Please remember that you are not alone and that even organisations as strong as ENVY have had their significant challenges over the past 12 months.”
“Recent government announcements indicate that the end is in sight with regards to the big pandemic by summer 2021. This, coupled with the fact that broadcasters and streamers have masses of work backed up that they want completed, and new work planned in the pipeline, I’d say the future for recruitment into the industry looks bright.”
“Be ready for when the opportunity comes; hone the software skills, learn everything you can from online courses, network where you can, and start a dialogue with those you want to work with in the future,” he advises.
“It’s about practicing more of what you love/want to do as a career and showcasing it if you can. Shoot footage on your phone or on a DSLR, edit it, give it a colour grade, add some sound design and throw it all up on a website or social media page. It doesn’t just have to be the finished article either - there’s no harm in putting work in progress on a Vimeo channel for people to look at too. I’d personally love to see how young talent have been developing their skills over this time when we’ve not had the opportunity to do much else. I think there could be some great stuff out there.”
Looking ahead to when we can safely return to offices, Tom is most looking forward to “having the Academy running at its fullest extent once again. It’s always been one of the highlights of my role, meeting new talent, witnessing them grow and networking in our bars after work with everyone from MCR assistants to editors and the CEO.”
“It is our duty to find and nurture talent wherever possible - without them we won’t have the success we’ve been so fortunate to have to date.”