Universities need to target training: Cossette exec
Rabinowicz emerging as ad industry's point man on education

When Daniel Rabinowicz entered the ad world shortly after getting his MBA from McGill, he was shocked at how little university graduate studies had prepared him to compete in a highly skilled workforce.

"I got virtually no practical training to prepare me for my career in advertising," said Rabinowicz, who has since vaulted through the ranks to become president of Cossette Communication Group's Montreal office. "And my sense from talking to other people in industry over the years, is that the situation has not improved."

Training an effective workforce is one of the key challenges facing Canadian businesses in an information economy. In few areas is the need for specialized personnel as clear as in the advertising industry.

New media buying technology, constantly changing graphic and Web design software and increasingly sophisticated market research techniques, are creating a preference among ad agencies for highly specialized employees, rather than the generalists that the business schools are producing.

Rabinowicz has played a key role in two dossiers to ensure that universities start picking up the slack. Last year he helped push for the establishment of a new graduate program in marketing communications, at École des Hautes Études Commerciales (HEC). And currently he is lobbying universities to integrate case studies from this year's Cassies awards, into an MBA level text. As a result Rabinowicz is emerging as the ad industry's point man on education.

"I have always had a penchant for the university milieu. I taught a course at HEC several years ago. But I devoted so much time to it, that it was cutting into my work and family hours, so I had to stop," said Rabinowicz. "I loved it and often thought I would eventually go back to teaching. But it never happened."

But Rabinowicz's teaching experience and his increasing involvement in human resource issues as he rose through the ranks of Canada's largest ad agency, have heightened his awareness of manpower training and education issues.

"Employee turnover is very high in our industry, with rates of 20% and even more in many companies," said Rabinowicz. "That means employers are constantly faced with the need to integrate new people. That means ongoing training."

The roots of the ad industry's needs for specialized employees are many. But one of the most important was the huge down-sizings of the 1980s and 1990s that saw many of the consumer products and packaged goods companies such as Proctor and Gamble, relinquish their role as finishing schools for industry professionals.

"In the past, many of the consumer products companies, would hire kids out of university, and give them a broad training in marketing, said Rabinowicz. "Eventually they would end up getting hired away by advertising agencies and smaller companies."

But after the bigger marketers began to cut back manpower training, no one came in to fill the void. "When I was president of the Association des Agences de Publicité du Québec, (AAPQ) we commissioned a study of educational practices in some of Canada's rivals, said Rabinowicz. "We found that Canada was the only country surveyed that did not have a university program that specialized in advertising."

This finding led the AAPQ to approach several universities about designing a graduate diploma, for business students who wanted to specialize in marketing and communications. A deal was eventually cut with HEC.

"The 38 students who joined the program for its first year, are getting a great hands-on education, taught by some of the top professionals in the industry," said Rabinowicz." In addition to a review of basic marketing concepts, students get more hands on training such as how to set up a client briefing, prepare a media plan and manage electronic print production.

"Part of our deal with the university, was that in addition to the money we contributed, AAPQ members also agreed to give employees time off the teach the courses, said Rabinowicz, who in addition to his duties at Cossette, will also be co-chairing this year's Cassies awards.

The awards recognize company's effectiveness in advertising campaigns. Rabinowicz's post is the source of another of his initiatives on the education front, which involves collecting information from the winning companies, and creating case studies which are to be used in university text books.

"I can't make a specific announcement now, but we are having detailed talks with certain academics, and I am confident we'll succeed," said Rabinowicz. "If students use real life examples in their text cases, they'll have a much better understanding about the challenges they will face when they graduate."

 

Photo caption: With his key role in several high-profile dossiers, Cossette Communication Group's Daniel Rabinowicz is emerging as the advertising industry's point man on education.

 

E-mail can be sent to Diekmeyer at: peter@peterdiekmeyer.com

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