How the CMA and RBC plan to tackle talent challenges

The association has partnered with the bank to launch a program geared at connecting employers and recent marketing graduates.

From left: John Wiltshire, president and CEO of the CMA, and Alan Depencier, CMO for personal and commercial banking at RBC.

For both employers and recent graduates looking to enter the workforce, there’s a lot standing in the way of finding a suitable match.

According to research by McKinsey & Co., only 34% of employers and 44% of youth believe that young people are prepared for work. The reasons, McKinsey finds, are manifold: employers and educators are fundamentally misaligned on the career skills that are the most important; students believe they learn best from practical or on-the-job experiences, but find this not to be a major focus in school; many employers fail to communicate frequently enough with educators (those who do have an easier time finding the right talent); and many teachers don’t prioritize helping their students land jobs (on average, institutions rank it as the fifth most important priority among a list of ten, according to McKinsey’s research).

But a new program launched by the Canadian Marketing Association (CMA) and the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) seeks to address this imbalance with the goal of helping post-secondary graduates find suitable and meaningful employment.

Called CMA NXT, the program aims to help students learn about a range of marketing roles within a given organization, to develop their professional profile and to effectively prepare for interviews. Participating students complete optional assignments developed by CMA member companies. In addition to serving as portfolio builders for students, the work helps to showcase their competencies to potential employers within the CMA network.

“CMA NXT is really an experiential communication channel between the marketing professional community and new marketing professionals,” says John Wiltshire, president and CEO of the CMA. “The service will provide really current information on various marketing roles and also delve into what the future of marketing will look like. This should be of real assistance to students trying to determine their most successful path and the right first job.”

Following the beta launch, the program will be rolled out in full next year. Participation is free for students, thanks in part to a four-year investment from founding sponsor RBC, whose “RBC Future Launch” initiative aligns with the goals of CMA NXT, notes Alan Depencier, CMO for personal and commercial banking.

“The program will focus on ‘human skills,’” such as critical thinking, active listening and problem solving, he says. “No matter how the world of work is disrupted, these skills will continue to be in demand.”

RBC first announced “RBC Future Launch,” a 10-year, $500 million initiative, in 2017. It’s geared towards helping young Canadians get opportunities and training to prepare for the future job market, and has been supported with major marketing campaigns.

Mary DePaoli, EVP and CMO of RBC, previously told strategy that the CSR platform launched because it believes education programs are inadequately preparing students for the job market. Forty percent of youth are underemployed, according to the parliament budget office.

“It’s a quiet, looming crisis,” DePaoli said at the time. “Youth are incredibly under-skilled, and all of this is happening during a period of profound economic and technological change. They’re at risk at ending up poorer than their parents.”

CMA NXT was designed to address some of the key challenges facing the marketing industry specifically, Wiltshire says. He adds that some of the difficulties stem from the mere range of roles that now fall under the marketing banner (from creativity to analytic abilities), as well as a lack of soft skills and workplace confidence among prospective candidates.

He says today’s employers are looking for workers who are proficient in technology, but who also excel in a wide array of other areas, such as storytelling, customer experience and brand marketing. “Soft skills are extremely important, including communications and presentation skills,” Wilshire says, “but also the ability to be agile, and an interest in continuous learning, as the pace of change is not going to let up any time soon.”

“It really is a win-win proposition for CMA members,” adds Depencier. “While students benefit from the mentorship of seasoned professionals, CMA’s members can benefit equally from reverse mentorship – exposure to new ideas and perspectives from a younger generation that can often be very in-tune with the consumers marketers are trying to reach.”

In addition to facilitating communication between employers and new recruits, Wiltshire says CMA NXT will help fine-tune participants’ soft skills and provide real experiences to students, “which should, on average, increase their confidence and probability of success in a marketing career.”