How this advertising company uses its training program to try to convince STEM grads away from Google and Facebook

Publicis trainingPublicis MediaPublicis Media Americas ‘Class of Winter 2016’.

If you ask any advertising executive their biggest challenge, most will reply with: “Talent”.

Whether attracting talent or retaining employees, advertising companies are under huge pressure to provide the type of environment, salaries, and kudos of big well-known brands. And when it comes to attracting STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) graduates, the advertising industry faces a challenge in attracting those candidates away from flashy roles at companies like Facebook, Snapchat, or Google.

It’s an issue Tim Jones, the chief executive of media-buying agency Publicis Media Americas is all too familiar with. Shortly after he moved into the role last year, he gave a directive that 50% of its graduate recruits would come from engineering or mathematic backgrounds.

Just like the big tech companies, Publicis goes out to campuses to persuade students it is a company to consider when they graduate.

Jones told Business Insider: “We have to compete … with Facebook, with Snapchat, and we have to be a cool company. We are a cool company, we really are. If you go to our space now in New York or Atlanta, which is probably the best example, it’s like the Google Campus.”

Tim jonesPublicis Media AmericasTim Jones, chief executive of Publicis Media Americas.

Once Publicis Media Americas has convinced them over the line, graduate recruits are placed on a 12-week training program. Each person is assigned a buddy who is also on the program and a mentor, who is an executive at the company.

They are assigned to work in specific department — like analytics, content, performance — and then switch half-way through. The graduates are also put into a team and assigned a task at the beginning of the program, which they present to the board at the end.

The final week involves a “draft,” where heads of department at the company pick their favourite graduates to give full-time roles.

“[The draft] is great fun because people know who they want and you see the heads of departments, just like the NFL draft, saying: ‘I’ll take these two if you give me that one,’ all of that goes on,” Jones said.

Many large companies typically offer graduate programs that last around a year, but Jones said the 12-week program has a distinctive advantage.

He added: “Some may say after 12 weeks, ‘this isn’t for me,’ but then at least they haven’t wasted a year. They discovered that in a 12 week intense period and from there they may well go to Google. But it’s really worked for us.”

One thing Jones said he was most surprised about with the program, which has been running for eight years is the “stickiness” it creates.

Jones said: “You have the ‘Class of Fall 2014’ who all stick together. We’ve also had many people leave — we’ve had high churn like many agencies — but a lot of the time they come back.”

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