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Targeting new talent to boost Jersey’s economy

Business | Published:

Migration into our small Island is often a hot potato of a topic, but there are some who arrive on our shores who give back more than their fair share to the community and economy. Daniel and Susana Rowles brought their business, Target Internet, to Jersey in 2018, but already they are having a hugely positive impact on the Island, as Gwyn Garfield-Bennett found out.

Daniel Rowles, CEO and Susana Rowles, Communications Director, of Target Internet Picture: ROB CURRIE (24479005)

DANIEL Rowles worked in digital agencies before becoming a freelance digital marketing trainer for companies and the Chartered Institute of Marketing, and ultimately setting up Target Internet and its e-learning platform in 2010 with his wife, Susana.

The site is accessible for individuals as well as corporates and as part of that, they have built the Digital Marketing Podcast, which is a top ten global business podcast, with a couple of million listeners. They now deliver training directly into companies but also on behalf of the Chartered institute of Marketing, for Hootsuite and for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, plus Daniel is a lecturer at Imperial College, London. Since coming to Jersey, they have instigated training courses locally, but what they have achieved in the past year is just the start.

Q. So how did they arrive on Jersey’s shores?

Daniel: ‘We’d been living in Brighton for 15 to 20 years, which was fine but we decided we wanted to move on somewhere else and I had been over here a couple of times for work and fell in love with the place. We looked into how you can move over and essentially there was no way, because we run our own business, that we were going to get licensed via a finance company or any other essential-worker route. Then we saw the Digital Jersey agenda in terms of trying to bring over small footprint, ie not many staff, fast-growth businesses, and thought that could work. We looked at the family side of things and the business environment and it ticked both of these boxes phenomenally in terms of schools, safety, things to do and a brilliant business environment for networking.’

Susana: ‘We hadn’t expected to actually do business here. We were moving our business here but most of our clients were still UK or international. However, because a lot of it is online it doesn’t really matter where you are. But since we got here, we’ve found that actually we have [done business here].’

Daniel: ‘The whole digital skills crisis is a global thing. I think it’s more apparent here because we’ve got a smaller population but actually, in reality, the problem is everywhere. So the fact that we were in the training space meant that it was just very well aligned. It has been relatively simple and I feel like I’ve been here forever, and it’s home completely. Finding this place (they live in a Jersey National Trust property), was a real bonus. We’ve got quite involved with the National Trust, we became corporate members as soon as we came over and we are talking about sponsoring the flower meadow out the front, so it’s been great being involved with that.

‘One of the things we realised when you go anywhere new is that you need to get involved and embrace it as an outsider coming in – and it helps making friends and it helps making business connections.’

Susana: ‘You need to be a contributor to your society, not just from the point of view of tax paying, but from actual activity, put your time where your mouth is, get involved.’

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Daniel: ‘Obviously we’re expected to pay a certain amount of tax, to employ people, that’s the basic level. But Susana has already got involved with the school, Scouts and the International Women’s Academy’s Digital Impact programme at JCG.’

Q. So is it what you expected?

Daniel: ‘Better actually. Bearing in mind my expectations because I was in love with the place anyway, it was actually everything I wanted plus more. The country is even more beautiful, the beaches and the coves and the ability to be out on the sea is fantastic; but actually, from a business perspective I thought it would be no different to Brighton, which was quite a good environment, but it’s actually loads better because there are lots of people who have moved here. Everyone’s very open to networking. There’s less cynicism.

‘Generally, you’re very close to government as well. So it’s quite easy to understand the agenda and you can meet the right people. The travel has been easier than expected, we’re spending less on travelling than we were before so that’s been great.’

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Q. Since coming here, what have you got involved in business-wise?

Daniel: ‘We’ve got a number of clients here, plus we’ve started the Jersey Marketing and Communications Network. The thing we found was that there was a marketing group that wasn’t particularly active, there was a PR group which was very active, but there wasn’t anyone catering for both together, and there’s so much crossover now between communications and marketing. So, we thought we’d get everyone together and have speakers come in, try to help people educate themselves and keep up to date.

‘Then with Digital Jersey, we started doing the 12-week digital marketing course. So that was three hours in the evening, once a week. We’ve completed a second cohort, about 30 people already.’

Susana: ‘We’ve had to expand the numbers we are taking because we had 60 applicants just for that and have started the third cohort. We added a six-week version because there were people applying for it that were in other areas of work with very limited digital marketing experience. So we wanted to put together a kind of back-to-work type scheme or change your career, give them a little bit of a taster. It’s not going to be full-on because they’re not necessarily going to be working in it straight away, but it gives them an option to start working in digital and then up-skill afterwards. And that was full as well. So that started running in the first week of January.’

Daniel: ‘We’ve also done a three-day version as well, and it’s great because we’ve benchmarked skills before and after, and you can see the uplift in skills. There’s quite a few people that have gone on to get new jobs, better jobs, they’ve gone into different roles and they’ve increased their salaries. So it’s definitely improving the skills base and is helping peoples’ careers and bringing some people back into the workforce as well.

‘With that in mind, we then wanted to look at how you could further that and that’s how the Digital Leadership programme came about, which is a two-year degree equivalent programme.

‘There will be three different groups: you have your undergraduate, 18-year-olds on average, who would come and do a two-year programme; there’s an apprenticeship where they do a day a week out of work and some evening study; and then a part-time study, which is the one that’s actually getting the most interest at the moment.

‘What’s interesting about it is it’s half the time academically studying things around digital, but half the time working on live projects. So there are a number of companies that are giving us work projects in terms of websites, social media and digital marketing. People will leave with a fairly rounded set of business and digital-focused skills, but also two years of work experience and a set of industry qualifications. As well as our Digital Leadership qualification, they’ll get a Chartered Institute of Marketing diploma, a Chartered Management Institute diploma, and a Chartered Institute of PR diploma. So four industry qualifications, two years’ experience, and we’re getting lots of companies to sign a pledge that says, “I see this as equal, if not better than a standard degree”.’

Susana: ‘The syllabus was built with industry feedback, because one of the problems that we’ve identified in the organisations we work with, is that a lot of the time graduates are not employable straightaway. You have to put them through graduate schemes to make sure that they have all the soft skills to work in an office environment. So we wanted to create an environment where they’re learning that skill at the same time. When they do come out on the other side, they can land into a job, and they can actually do the job without having to be taught how to do that job.

‘We also want to encourage the entrepreneur side of things, because we think from an economic point of view, it would make a lot of difference to the Island because of the whole lifestyle and work/life balance here that you can’t really achieve elsewhere.

‘It’s a really good environment for start-ups because of the zero corporation tax for businesses, but starting a business is not easy. You need quite a lot of skills surrounding whatever idea you have.’

Daniel: ‘We will also have the ability to run lots of short courses for industry as well. So when we bring an industry expert or speaker in to teach the students, we will also be doing events for business. So there’s a kind of spin-off that businesses will get access to a lot more of that educational stuff than they would have had before.

‘What’s interesting to me is that we will be improving the skills base across the Island in a number of different ways, and it will be exceptional, not just from a Jersey standard but from a global standard. Because I teach at Imperial College in London, on the master’s programme, we’ve got the academic experience as well as the industry experience.

‘One of the things we did at Imperial was to try and make it a much more commercial master’s programme. It was voted best marketing MSC programme in Europe, and second best in the world. So we’re taking all the learnings from that and applying it to this course.

‘Jersey will have something that is completely world class and completely different.’

Q. Has it been hard to pull together?

Susana: ‘People are quite open to trying new things in Jersey, there’s less cynicism. So that’s one of the reasons why this is actually able to happen. That can-do attitude is really important.’

Daniel: ‘Industry got behind it, Digital Jersey got behind it and the Education department got behind it as well. So having the non-government organisation and the government and industry working together in that way, quickly, was actually really helpful.’

Q. Dare I ask if there are any other ideas?

Daniel: ‘With the Chartered Institute of Marketing, I’m the lead judge on their Marketing Excellence Awards, which is a global marketing awards. We’re going to get the Chartered Institute of Marketing to do a digital awards specific to the Channel Islands, so that will be launching this year as well.’

Q. What advice would you give to other businesses?

Daniel: ‘It’s the same everywhere in that people are not really embracing digital, they’re resisting a lot of the time. “This has always worked, we’ve done it this way for a long time”. But the reality is the business environment has changed, and will continue to change at a faster and faster pace. And if you don’t adapt to that, that’s when businesses fail.

‘So it’s really just about admitting to ourselves the environment has changed, and we might not understand it, that’s fine. And it’s therefore about upskilling yourself or your team and bringing in the right people so that you can manage that.

‘The key to it is we need to be constantly learning. From the individual and businesses’ point of view, it’s got to be about embracing the fact that you will never stop learning in your career, in your business and just finding ways that work for you. That might be attending breakfast briefings, it might be doing a proper course, it might be a full qualification, it might be just watching some videos online or listening to a podcast; but it’s just finding what works for you and then embracing it on an ongoing basis.’

Gwyn Garfield-Bennett

By Gwyn Garfield-Bennett
Business Editor

Gwyn is a highly experienced journalist having worked in UK national TV for the BBC and ITN, as well as running her own magazine publishing business, freelancing for national newspapers and UK magazines. She has a CIPR Diploma in Public relations, excellent digital skills and is an experienced digital marketing practitioner. Gwyn is also an author of several books.

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