News: Need to educate young people on PR as an ‘attractive and viable’ career, says PRCA

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TO address a global talent and recruitment challenge within the public relations field, a new report titled ‘Seeking a New Way of Working in the Public Relations Industry – A Global View from Emerging Young Public Relations Professionals’ carried on by the PRCA International University Advisory Group, underscores the need for greater outreach to young individuals prior to their entry into university education.

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The study took soundings from international PR and communications students to find out their perceptions and expectations of working in the industry.

The research found that over 40 per cent of the students who responded to a question about why they had chosen to study public relations, explained that they were initially interested in marketing, psychology, or journalism. It was through taking undergraduate modules in public relations that they found out more about the subject and then either switched their undergraduate course or chose to undertake a postgraduate course in public relations.

Institutions involved in the authoring of this study were Sheffield Hallam University, Swansea University, University of Kentucky, Bournemouth University, Brunel University, Belmont University and APCO Worldwide.

The report’s authors recommend a global push to explain and promote public relations to younger people as an attractive and viable career with a great range of specialisms. The study found that fashion and lifestyle, technology, digital media and the entertainment industry were the most popular amongst the cohort studied. But grouping politics, not-for-profit and activism together, a fifth of respondents had an interest in policy and making a difference.

Other key findings showed that students desire hybrid and flexible workplaces; expect on-the-job continuous professional development and upskilling; diversity and inclusion and its impact on career development require attention; and both industry and academia should focus on providing role models from BAME communities to foster greater diversity.

Professor Sian Rees (pictured), Swansea University, one of the authors of the new study said, “One of the reasons why the public relations industry has a restricted talent pool is because the profession is so invisible to young people when they are thinking about the careers they would like to have. Typically, young people find out about the profession late in their educational journey. Many students first really encounter public relations on MA courses having had a taste of it as a small part of their undergraduate courses. But many students do not go on to postgraduate study and so the sector is losing out as graduates enter other jobs.”

Stephanie Umebuani, PRCA head of apprenticeships, said, “Today’s global talent and recruitment challenges in the PR industry demand a proactive approach. The findings from this study underscore the imperative for our industry to make itself more visible to young talent well before they embark on their university education. At the PRCA we are already taking steps toward this through our Schools Outreach Programme and PR Apprenticeships by engaging with young individuals, showcasing the diversity and opportunity that the world of public relations offers. We want public relations to be on their radar as a compelling and accessible career path. That way, we can bridge the gap in our talent pool and equip the next generation with the skills and knowledge they need for a thriving PR profession.”