Saturday, August 15, 2009

Digital skills gap now ‘critical’ for publishers
14.08.09 Catherine Neilan in Thr Bookseller

The digitisation of the publishing industry has “exposed existing skill gaps” some of which are “critical”, according to a report compiled by the sector skills council Skillset.

The year-long industry-wide report, in which bodies such as the Independent Publishers Guild and the Publishers Association have been involved, found digitisation had created “radical” changes across the sector. Key areas included the impact on intellectual property rights and understanding digital products or platforms.
“Many [of the skills gaps] have not been addressed for some time and are now critical," the report said. "Understanding how to use these skills . . . is critical to commercial success.”
Random House c.e.o. and chairman Dame Gail Rebuck—a Skillset board member—added: “It is important that the industry understands and moves with the market so the skills gap this report has identified does not continue to grow.”
Suzanne Ashley, Skillset publishing sector manager, said the report had revealed specific problem areas within training and recruitment.
She said: “There are those who know the business really well—often those who are more experienced, middle-management types—who are very uncomfortable with the wholly changing digital landscape.”
However, Ashley stressed the need for a balance of experience between “strong core strategy skills” and those with a “fresher perspective”.
The report also found that certain vacancies could be difficult to fill, because suitable candidates were attracted to other creative media industries, for higher ­salaries.
Ashley explained: “There are ­people who are literate, articulate, creative, and also have good technical abilities, but [the publishing industry] is not getting them . . . Salaries do play a part, as does the reliance on relaxed recruitment practices and unpaid work experience.”
The industry’s reputation as somewhat staid was also a factor, she said. “Graduates are having their heads turned by film, computer games, interactive media—there is a perception that publishing is old-fashioned, which turns people off a bit.”
Ashley urged publishers to get involved, either to contribute to or refute Skillset’s findings. She added: “It’s also a question of ‘watch this space’ as we’ve moved from research to the nitty gritty.” Ashley added that announcements are expected later this year or into the next: “It’s going to gain momentum from here.”
People Gail Rebuck publishers association Independent Publishers Guild Home digitisation Catherine Neilan recruitment Skillset

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