Graphic designers are visual problem solvers, understanding how to use digital tools to solve business challenges. They are experts in creatively using the space they have to make the greatest impact. But how does someone learn and hone these skills? At Havas Life Medicom, our new Creative Trainee Programme aims to foster young talent through a blended and personalised learning journey that encourages curiosity and real-world application of new skills within the healthcare comms industry. Manolis Stalford, Executive Director, Production, talks about the benefits to trainees and the programme’s positive impact on the agency.
Why was the Creative Trainee Programme started?
At Havas Life Medicom, we recognised that there are a lot of young people with great potential, who don’t want to take an academic route but would rather get hands-on experience after Sixth Form. We have started tapping into this rich talent pool.
What’s a typical learning journey for a trainee?
Everyone follows the same roadmap, but each journey is personalised as we aim to develop trainees in the direction for which they have the most natural affinity and passion.
Over the first year, trainees learn the basics of graphic design. This gives them time to assess their capabilities, and discover their own likes, dislikes and natural abilities. We then adapt their training across our broad range of disciplines within our integrated agency. They explore the principles of photography, image composition, retouching and licensing law, all the while working on projects that also develop their knowledge, software expertise, communication skills and teamworking. For instance, a logo designing project; creating simple identities; designing print and online materials; and creating their own portfolios.
We also encourage our trainees to sit the Adobe Certified Associate Programme exams. These are voluntary but valuable qualifications, and a fantastic incentive to hone software skills and design knowledge.
In Year 2, we really start building confidence. Trainees put into practice the knowledge gained so far and get a taste for the different directions their creative careers in healthcare communications could follow. We embed our students into our creative teams, with valuable mentorship by a Creative Director in each of our Brand, PR, Medical Affairs, Digital and Moving Image units. While doing all of this, trainees will spend roughly 50% of their time on client work, learning to be a real team player and how it feels working to tight deadlines.
“Being able to work on a mixture of training projects and client work has given me the chance to learn so much! Being surrounded by very knowledgeable and experienced colleagues has been so helpful – I’ve had the chance to learn from so many different experts.” – 2019 trainee
What are the benefits of a programme like this?
Trainees have the opportunity to earn while they work, and train on real-life projects across the spectrum of pharma marketing, PR and comms. They apply everything they are learning to live projects – building confidence, experience, and knowledge side by side.
Our trainees learn from a variety of professionals with decades of experience. They work alongside seasoned Creatives who produce award-winning work to a very high technical standard across every conceivable output medium. Our Creative teams love mentoring our trainees and seeing the fresh ideas and dynamic they bring.
In terms of learning, it’s very target-based and tailored to each individual. Trainees know what to expect and can help shape their development through setting milestones and objectives.
“Moving around the company and working in different disciplines has given me an insight into healthcare comms and helped me decide what I would like to focus on. Initially, I was interested in Graphic Design, however my time here has shown me that I really enjoy artworking and production.” – 2019 trainee
What are the biggest challenges for trainees?
Coming from full-time education into a fast-moving creative team with deadlines and where every hour is put to the maximum use, is quite a big change. Trainees also have to quickly learn about the pharmaceutical industry and understand issues around regulation and compliance. They need to use their initiative and ask lots of questions to make sure they get each task right. Working on real projects is a new responsibility, with a sense of commitment to their team members and clients.
Trainees need to be highly motivated and independent enough to make the most of their unsupervised time too. This will typically involve identifying where they think their skills are in greatest need of development and then using their training time wisely.
What do you hope that trainees get out of the participating in this scheme?
By the end of the 2-year programme, we feel that our trainees are equal in skills and knowledge to a graduate Creative Artworker or Designer. They feel confident using industry standard packages to design, artwork, amend and deliver high-quality artwork for multiple mediums. Our goal is that successful trainees become a valuable asset to our team, can work at a high level, bring their own ideas to the table and work with colleagues at all levels. This, we hope, will lead to confident, happy creatives with promising career paths ahead of them in our company.
“The Creative Trainee Programme has been a fantastic addition to our Talent & People strategy. It’s part of our commitment to supporting every individual’s development – from creative trainees and graduates to directors – through carefully planned onboarding and ongoing learning.” – Elliot Brackpool, Talent and Acquisition Lead
What has been the most rewarding part of the programme?
Seeing enthusiastic young people grow into skilled and confident professionals has been so rewarding. I have loved being part of the group who guides our “students” to discover what they are good at and helping them build upon this. Our whole Creative team have played some part in our first cohort’s journey and feel a great deal of pride in the way they have developed.