Business schools have reported growing demand from companies for talent to lead digital growth, including GlaxoSmithKline, Deloitte, LVMH, American Express and Apple.
Digital has been a huge economic driver and with that growth comes a need for graduates to lead companies into the digital era. But there is skills shortage, and this is intensifying the demand for talent.
“The digital age has transformed the skills shortage from a nagging worry for CEOs into something more challenging,” said Jon Andrews, leader of PwC’s global people and organization practice.
“Despite rising business confidence and ambitious hiring plans, organizations are struggling more than ever to find the right people,” he said. Chief executives are more concerned about the impact of a skills shortage on their business than at any point in the last six years, according to PwC research.
In the business of consulting digital skills are becoming more important to a range of specialist firms, such as BCG Digital Ventures and Strategy& (formerly Booz Digital), said Chris Weber at UCLA Anderson School of Management's career centre.
“Often they are looking for people with previous experience in consulting or deep product management at a technology company,” he said.
In finance digital skills are now in demand from a broader range of financial services firms, said Paul Schoonenberg, head of MBA careers at Aston, a top UK business school.
“IT was historically seen as a cost on the business of banking. But that has changed significantly as the digital revolution continues to take hold,” he said.
As banks have begun a mad dash to invest in their data there is increasingly a need for analytics in areas such as credit, said Dustin Pusch, director of business analytics at George Washington University’s business school.
“The use of big data is increasingly necessary for firms to be competitive,” he said.
The digital sector is one of the largest wealth creators in the UK, with over 250,000 new businesses set up each year, contributing £113 billion to the economy, according to government figures published this month.
Technology sector companies such as Amazon, Google and SAP have long been leading digital employers at the top business schools. Now a host of other industries are in need of managers to steer their digital transformations.
“There is a need to invest in digital-savvy talent,” said Mike Wade, director of the Global Center for Digital Business Transformation at IMD, the leading Swiss business school.
The drive for digital talent has not been lost on the luxury sector either, which is increasingly adopting technology as luxury moves online.
Erica Corbellini, director of the Master in Fashion, Experience and Design Management at SDA Bocconi School of Management, said luxury brands are desperate for talent combining tech expertise with business knowledge.
“There are now several luxury brands that have developed a successful digital strategy,” she said, such as Burberry, Gucci and Chanel.
The need to bridge the digital skills gap goes beyond the luxury leaders such as Hermès and Richemont to the fast-growing start-ups clustered in fashion centres like London, New York and Milan.
Gachoucha Kretz, former LVMH executive and now professor of marketing at French business school HEC Paris, said: “Chances are the breaking new business models like that of Yoox or Moda Operandi will flourish and, of course, drive new career and business opportunities.”
The world of media and marketing too is seeing a shift in strategy, with the emergence of disruptive digital players like Netflix and YouTube competing with industry stalwarts such as Time Warner Cable and Comcast.
MBA students are being recruited across the media industry. “MBAs are particularly sought out for product management positions in support of digital properties, content and channels,” said Eric Young, assistant dean for careers at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business.
On the marketing side, graduates who can utilize data through analytics to target consumers more accurately are highly desirable.
“Companies now need marketing managers who are comfortable with data analytics,” said Anindya Ghose, professor of marketing at NYU Stern School of Business.
In healthcare too there is an improvement on the number of graduates with digital experience who are hired by pharmaceutical companies, according to Elisa Zagami, head of careers at MIP Politecnico di Milano, the leading Italian business school, who highlights Eli Lilly, Novartis, Boehringer and Bayer.
Finance, professional services and real estate are the sectors that require the most digital skills, according to a 2014 report from the OECD. Data also show that managers are among the workers that use ICT skills the most.
But all industries are growing desperate for digital-savvy hires. Companies are under increasing pressure to harness technology to improve business performance.
“It is a case of staying relevant in an era of digital disruption,” said Dr Jim Hamill, who leads the Digital Leadership initiative at Strathclyde Business School.