Affiliate marketing network Webgains is taking industry training into its own hands, launching the Webgains Academy for its staff and partners.

According to the group, the initiative stems from CEO Richard Dennys’ belief in staffing with “less hands, more brains”, and desire to attract and develop younger applicants currently in short supply as a result of digital marketing qualifications catering insufficiently for performance advertising.

Opening officially in September, the Webgains Academy is what the group call an “inclusive learning environment” which will aim to provide professional development at the point of need to its staff and partners, letting trainees learn through “real-world execution” rather than formal training sessions and classroom-based activities.

The network says the structure of this will be adaptable to the needs of each employee, with options for team-based collaborative learning which apply both theory and real-world execution and one-on-one sessions, with the ultimate aim of making sure staff remain “educated, challenged and engaged” at work.

Addressing the skills gap

According to Ami Spencer, Webgains’ international publisher director, the group is positioning the Academy “at the very heart of our culture and way of working”, recognising the need to invest in its own people and partner network.

“We intend for Webgains Academy to become a source of knowledge, inspiration and empowerment for our colleagues and partners, encouraging them to think differently about how they can monetise their content sites through affiliate tracking links,” said Spencer.

Speaking on the launch, Dennys himself is more direct about the long-term direct benefit to the network in the investment, citing TechCity UK research that estimates a 750,000 shortage of people with appropriate digital skills, which he adds, “will probably get worse with Brexit”.

“We either continually invest in our people; today, tomorrow and forever, or we will simply run out of steam. We try to make each day working at Webgains feel like an ‘adventure’ so that the lure of other offers and opportunities is resisted and the Academy is a central and critical part of that,” Dennys told PerformanceIN.

While there’s no shortage of qualifications available for aspiring digital marketers, the absence of those specialising in performance marketing continues to remain a point of concern within the industry.

A recent study by affilinet found that as many as three-fifths of UK marketing graduates have  “no memory” of learning about the affiliate sector or performance-based marketing practices, while 67% of those that did claimed that information related to affiliate practices was “outdated and unhelpful”.

Meanwhile, a study conducted in 2015 found affiliate marketing to top the list of skills that digital marketers most wanted to improve upon, among 40% of those surveyed.

According to Spencer, the Academy will seek to educate staff and publishers on the “phenomenally” fast-paced affiliate space, but adds that it will strive to expand students’ knowledge base beyond just affiliate to create “rounded digital marketers”.