Wellington start-up Digital Cafe helping bridge the gap between tertiary study and employment

The Digital Cafe - planning their start up from Matt’s kitchen table

The Digital Cafe - planning their start up from Matt’s kitchen table

By Ruby McAndrews - appeared in Stuff.co.nz 2 Dec 2016

A pair of marketing experts - with decades of industry experience between them - want to help tertiary students get the work experience they need before they graduate.

After just a few months of planning, Antony Young and Matt McNeil set up The Digital Cafe, a start-up providing marketing solutions for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Wellington

Young said the idea for the company came after he delivered a guest lecture to third-year marketing students at Victoria University.

According to a 2016 MYOB survey, 44 per cent of employers don't think the tertiary education system gives students the skills they need. verse just 18 per cent who say it does.

"A number of students came up to me afterwards and said it was really interesting, but what they really wanted to know was how to get a job.

According to a 2016 MYOB survey, 44 per cent of employers don't think the tertiary education system gives students the skills they need. verse just 18 per cent who say it does.

According to a 2016 MYOB survey, 44 per cent of employers don't think the tertiary education system gives students the skills they need. verse just 18 per cent who say it does.

"It struck me how difficult it is for students these days to get work, particularly because in New Zealand most of the marketing departments for national companies are in Auckland."

He teamed up with British ex-pat Matt McNeil to help students get marketing experience before they graduated.

The Digital Cafe was already proving to be a win-win for those involved, he said.

Students are employed at a fair market rate and given the chance to obtain skills for their careers. The new start-up also has hard-working students, who have a level of social experience that small businesses need.

McNeil said the biggest hurdle for smaller businesses was the inability to carve out enough time to get their social media channels thriving.

"Every day you should be marketing. Every day is a chance to attract new customers or get existing customers to come back.

"It's about showing the back story, what will help people think you're a more relevant brand and what will get people through the door."

It was that aspect that McNeil said the paid student interns would be able to work on with clients

"They'll be doing something that's relevant to thier future career rather than stacking shelves at a supermarket or serving beers in a pub."

Both of which fourth-year commerce student Lucy Davy had done during her studies.

The 22-year old was hired by McNeil and Young after she heard about the opportunity through Victoria University's careers department.

"It just seemed like a really great way to get a little bit of marketing experience while I was finishing off my degree," Davey said.

Already she had noticed a huge difference between learning in a classroom and working for a client.

"[At university] you might have 10 weeks to work on a project but with this, you have to work on different things at different times and do it a lot faster as well.

"It forces you to think on your feet and not get complacent."

Victoria University's careers and employment assistant manager Jane Fletcher said the university, particularly the marketing school, were enthusiastic about The Digital Cafe's mission to "help students gain invaluable practical marketing experience to complement their academic qualifications".

"We support initiatives like these paid internships coming from the private sector," Fletcher said.