Where are the skills gaps in the publishing industry?

skills gaps

As Publisher Relations Executive (Trade / International) at The Publishers Association, Seonaid MacLeod is an expert at advising on a wide range of publishing industry issues. Ahead of ‘Transferable skills in creative industries‘ on 19th August, we asked Seonaid a few questions.

1. You work with publishers across the industry. In which areas do you think publishers are looking for skills?

Publishers are incredibly aware of the need for a diverse workforce in all aspects of the business. This diversity can be based on demographic, and it can be based on skills. Particularly in the educational sector, the skills needed to create enhanced learning materials are imperative. Beyond that, all publishers expect applicants to be at least conversant in digital skills, aware of what’s going on in the industry and beyond, and to have a real interest in the future of publishing. An English degree should no longer be seen as the only relevant qualification for the job.

2. How easy do you think it is for publishing professionals to gain new skills and change roles?

There’s a variety of training available for publishing professionals, in a formal setting (take a look at our publishing training page), or informally. Organisations like Code Academy allow individuals to brush up on their coding knowledge in their own time. Publishing is also packed with events, conferences and networking sessions, such as our Bookmachine event. Attending these is one of the best ways for people to find out what’s going on in the industry, monitor trends, and hear what publishers are looking for.

Changing roles is without doubt easiest at the beginning of a publisher’s career, but roles can be exceedingly flexible and working with other departments on particular projects can satisfy the need for something new. Communication between departments and a willingness to collaborate is important in publishing, so someone who can flit between understanding production specs and consumer analytics will be valued highly… At a higher level, candidates with experience in other industries are very appealing, as they will bring a fresh perspective to the role and a new set of skills.

3. In your role at The PA, what do you see as the best way to future proof the skills of the workforce?

We’re doing a huge amount of work to attract the best people into publishing, going to careers shows and urging publishers to visit schools, write blogs for us and engage young people in publishing. Our members are fully supportive of this work, and are keen to see a really wide range of people working in publishing, regardless of their academic experience or background. Promoting publishing as a career will be an important focus for us, and for our members, in the coming years, to ensure that the most creative, brightest and most capable applicants come and work with us rather than in tech or for one of the other creative industries.

4. How does the PA help its members to fill the skills gap in the industry?

We work closely with a wide range of organisations, such as EQUIP (Equality in Publishing), Creative Access, Creative Skillset and Society of Young Publishers. Importantly, we also work with APE (Association of Publishing Education) to ensure that publishing courses at higher ed level are teaching students the skills publishers are looking for. Our workshops are really well-received, looking at practical measures to improve diversity, accessibility, and new trends in publishing. The PA keeps its members up-to-date on the latest developments in the industry, at all levels: technological; governmental; legislative; and so on. Above all, we’re always available for a chat on developments and opportunities, supporting our members and their employees.

5. Why should we all attend ‘transferable skills in the creative industries‘ on 19th August?

The panel on the 19th August really demonstrates the range of opportunities available. HarperCollins is a huge employer, and one with a real commitment to finding the best talent available. Stephanie Hall worked with numerous publishers in her past life as a recruitment consultant, so will have insights into all sizes and types of business. Inkle (Jon Ingold) and Touchpress (Louise Rice) are perfect examples of the new publishing – award-winning and highly acclaimed projects embarked upon between developers and publishers. We’ll look at publishing skills from all angles, and get to grips with what’s needed in publishing right now. It’s a hugely exciting time for us all in the industry, and this time of change needs new and flexible skills.

Grab a ticket for ‘transferable skills in the creative industries’


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