By collaboratively harnessing and leveraging its inherent power, the creative impact is immeasurable and far-reaching, says the team at Sum of 21 Academy. The creative initiative of consultancy Etiket Brand Design provides insights as to how it has proven its success over the past year.
Under the direction of professional Etiket teams, Sum of 21 nurtures young creatives through 12-month learnerships and internships to reimagine their futures, while bringing fresh ideas and perspectives into the South African advertising and creative landscape. It also allows Etiket to play a meaningful role in the transformation environment as well as in alleviating the serious skills shortage in the creative industry.
The skills development initiative is serviced through B-BBEE spend from corporate South Africa. The reality is that, even though marketing budgets are the first to go in tough economic times, B-BBEE budgets cannot be cut.
In return for channelling its B-BBEE spend through Sum of 21 in the form of skills development (SD), enterprise, supplier, and development (ESD), and socio-economic development (SED), Sum of 21 clients receive ‘creative hours’ to execute proper marketing briefs and projects. They then use these creative hours to produce marketing outputs and collateral required by clients – without them having to touch their marketing budgets.
The reality is that, up to now, the progress in terms of B-BBEE spend has been very limited. While the B-BBEE spirit and codes are laudable, the way in which they are implemented falls short. For companies, it has become a ‘grudge spend’, as they feel they cannot track return on investment (ROI) because they traditionally get very little back on their spend.
Through hands-on mentorship and other training programmes by Etiket’s seasoned professionals, the skills of Sum of 21’s interns and learners, in all the disciplines, are honed to advance them into career roles. The professionals, on the other hand, are consistently exposed to fresh, invigorating, and relevant ideas and insights.
Sum of 21 does not, however, want to compete with existing learning institutions at all. The interns and learners already have a tertiary qualification, but not necessarily design thinking capability. This is what the Academy aims to instil in them. They want to teach them to use their theoretical and design skills to become creative problem solvers.
A further entrepreneurial-based learnership is envisaged to follow after and complements the initial 12-month learnership/internship, specifically aimed at people who consider creating their own businesses in the creative industry.
The Academy started off with small groups of learners, seven of whom have already completed the programme and who are now formally employed by Etiket. Since the initial small intake, a further 20 interns and unemployed learners (plus one employed learner) with skills and qualifications in multiple disciplines ranging from design, radio, PR, journalism to strategic communication and business administration have been recruited for training by Sum of 21 over the past year.
To create a well-rounded, mini-agency, or incubator that can service a wide range of clients and projects without having to acquire the services of any additional people, the team is specifically divided into 10 interns and 10 learners. They typically make up the entire team of account executives, business developers, project and production assistants, designers, copywriters, developers, and the like.
Sum of 21 has been contracted to the relevant SETAs (training governing bodies), which govern the Academy’s learnerships and internships in terms of policies, procedures, structures, and implementation plans, including budgets.
Besides nurturing and growing interns with design/creative qualifications, the Academy also considers young people who don’t have the right qualifications or who fall just short of entering into the creative industry.
In terms of design skills, the learners’ training covers a wide range; from traditional layout, design, and illustrative skills in both traditional mediums and digital, to photography, video producing, and editing skills.
They are well-versed in multimedia, 3D modelling, stand rendering and design, conceptual space design, and building and animating characters. A few of them have also mastered front-and back-end programme development, including HTML and Java.
Briefs and projects
Briefs and projects from clients come directly to Sum of 21, not via Etiket. Together, the integrated team then delivers the work and builds relationships with the clients. The clients are often pleasantly surprised when they get far more back than what they had bargained for. The ‘freshness’ and ‘vigour’ displayed in the work of the learners and interns have been a recurring theme in clients’ feedback.