Give something back to the #BrightonSEO community, help give a young person work experience. #RBWeek

In CSR & Sustainability, The Digital Marketing Blog by JasonLeave a Comment

This article was originally published in the BrightonSEO Newsletter.

Welcome to Brighton! As well as being home to BrightonSEO, Brighton has earned a reputation for being a city of contrasts and it has the potential to surprise; there are approximately 7,500 businesses in Brighton of which around 1,495 are in the Creative, Digital and IT sector, contributing almost £1bn to the local economy. And according to the 2001 census, the majority of Jedi’s in the UK live here too!

That “creative flair” is reflected in the diversity and growth of Brighton’s digital community – in the recent “Tech Nation” report, Brighton’s digital cluster was recognised as one of the fastest growing in the UK, achieving an increase of 91% by number since 2000. And that growth has resulted in the UK’s highest concentration of digital businesses, at 3.3X the national average number of digital businesses per head of population.

Brighton’s digital and creative sector now employs more people than Brighton’s traditional visitor economy which includes all the hotels, restaurants, pubs and clubs that give the City much of its cultural character.

The boom is further evidenced by the circa 150 jobs advertised on the Wired Sussex jobs board right now, a small fraction of the almost 45,000 digital jobs which get advertised in the UK each year. So for us people in the industry the prospects are good for an exciting career ahead but, for the businesses involved, the lack of availability of suitable skills is actually hindering growth.

What’s happening about it?

There is plenty going on to address skills shortages; in 2006 locally based digital businesses including SiteVisibility, WPM, CogApp, Nixon McInnes, Madgex, iCrossing and White Hat Media helped to set up Wired Sussex which works on behalf of over 2500 members. One of its successes has been the Intern Placement Programme which has helped hundreds of young graduates to start a career in digital marketing and there are probably quite a few here at BrightonSEO!

The Government’s Apprenticeship programme is starting to contribute positively in our sector.

The Brighton Digital Festival , where each year in September over 150 mostly free events entertain and educate more than 40,000 people.

And also BrightonSEO itself, which we reckon is one of the best SEO conferences around, but which has always been a free conference about helping people interested in SEO to meet, learn and do their job a little better twice a year.

But if you’re a 16-18 year old from Moulsecoomb in East Brighton, only 1 km from two great Universities in Falmer and less than 4km from Brighton & Hove City centre, your chances of getting into, let alone benefitting from the local boom in digital and creative jobs have been historically low. Locally, it’s not uncommon for two or three generations in a family home to be unemployed and I know of youngsters there who have never seen the sea. Many are not aware of the digital media boom taking place on their doorstep. Not many apply for those jobs on the Wired Sussex jobs board.

Back in 2007 we started to work with the then Falmer High School to help raise awareness of digital career opportunities in Brighton. In 2010 the High School was replaced by the Brighton Aldridge Community Academy (BACA), a £20m+ brand new school which is part of enormous efforts to improve opportunities in the local area and address the social inequality in our City. The school has a tough brief but has already started to send students to University and has achieved awards for being the “biggest improver” in a number of areas.

But with 83 per cent of schools no longer employing professional careers advisers, schools rely on businesses like ours to help bring the world of work to life.

Brighton Business Impact Group

So, in 2014 Legal & General, SiteVisibility and CPJ Field & Co came together, supported by Brighton & Hove Council and co-ordinated by Business in the Community, to form the Brighton Business Impact Group (BIG) with the aim of helping BACA to dramatically increase the percentage of school leavers who enter employment. My personal objective is to introduce the local digital and media sector to the students and see whether it’s possible for a small company to help to address some of the structural skills shortages we face as an industry and in doing so, have a positive social impact in our local community in our own modest way.

BIG members are providing a variety of support over the next year, based on key needs as identified by BACA. It started small with Directors and colleagues from SiteVisibility and CPJ Field & Co delivering sessions on the world of business to a group of year 10 business studies students including Business, Marketing and Finance, all delivered by team members and helping us to build trust and relationships with the students.

The second phase dealt with employability skills including the practicalities of how to prepare a CV and apply for a work placement together with the interview skills required to be successful on the big day. One of the nicest surprises was how commercially savvy the students proved to be, whilst the most rewarding aspect so far has been how the positively the students have responded to the opportunity, watching their confidence grow.

Having discussed the concept with BACA, we decided that rather than simply offering a work placement we would ask students to go through a recruitment process and compete for the opportunity. This provided the students with an insight to how competitive the jobs market is and provided a fantastic opportunity to gain feedback on how they interviewed.

Following writing a formal application letter, students then took part in a real life interview with BIG team members to discuss their skills and experience and suitability for the position. The promised work placements will be taking place in April – one in Finance at CPJ Field & Co. and the other in Marketing at SiteVisibility. That’s one work placement from each company – something that’s easily manageable for a small company. There are hundreds of companies attending BrightonSEO and if 10% of us took on one work placement from a local school like BACA, we could solve that problem.


Other planned BIG activities with BACA include:

  • World of Work: Open your office and inspire people into the world of work. From understanding how to budget to talking through HR you can get various departments involved in these activities.
  • Dragons Den and Business Enterprise Challenges: Coach teams in problem solving, creativity, project planning and presentation skills



There are already some wonderful personal stories which show we’re having an impact, Sophie was one of the successful candidates who will be commencing the digital marketing work placement at SiteVisibility {Currently in year 10 and studying for 10 GCSE’s Sophie is keen to gain work experience alongside her qualifications.} She wasn’t the most confident of the students but she worked hard and impressed everyone with the improvements in her confidence and communications skills and was felt to be the person most likely to benefit from the position. Her teachers tell us she’s really come out of her shell since our involvement.

Brighton BIG enables digital agencies to work collaboratively in raising the aspirations of young people and help address future skills shortages. James Collett, Assistant Principal at BACA said ‘This is a fantastic initiative that enables employers to work collaboratively and focus support that can inspire their future workforce. The support is developed in response to our needs as a school and allows for innovative and inspiring projects to be developed’.

At its simplest, the aim here is to give the students the opportunity of work experience, the important paragraph on any young CV which sets the candidate apart from other applicants. Without work experience, it’s difficult to get that first step on the career ladder. Many of us know that from personal experience – either as the candidate early on in our careers or today as the employer, would you employ someone without work experience?

Have a think about how you started in the industry. What was your lucky break? Did someone take a risk on you? If you’d like to give something back, this could be an ideal opportunity to help young people in Brighton to get that lucky break whilst also doing something practical and positive to help address one of the biggest issues facing our industry today.

Apart from feeling fantastic because of your positive action, there are potential business benefits including:

  • Employee engagement and motivation
  • Personal development opportunities as a cost effective supplement or alternative to training.
  • Talent development for existing high potential employees
  • Team building within existing team and across organisational functions
  • Recognition as a responsible employer in the local community.
  • Networking with other BIG and BITC members at local, regional and national events


The Brighton BIG has started small but the infrastructure, support and relationships are in place. This is only the beginning and we hope that we can encourage more digital agencies to engage with BACA and explore how they can help.

Businesses interested in joining the Brighton BIG can contact Mike Toy on 023 9241 5760

Leave a Comment