Heather McGregor, whose firm Taylor Bennett has
been a specialist in senior “in-house” communications
roles for 25 years, had long been asked by clients to
supply a more ethnically diverse range of candidates.
With support from Brunswick, equally concerned to
address the lack of diversity in the sector in the UK,
she set up an internship scheme last year in a bid to
train the talent from scratch. as her diary reveals,
however, it wasn’t that easy…
We set up Unicorn Jobs, a recruitment agency for junior positions, in Shoreditch, east London. The idea is that income from this business will support our social enterprise.
We recruit the rest of our team and now have people, premises and seed capital. But where will we find the raw talent that we hope will increase the number of black and minority ethnic candidates in communications?
Jackie Shorey, our chief trainer, visits the University of East London (UEL) employability office (what many of us would recognise as the careers department). The good news is that UEL, situated opposite City Airport, is an ideal partner – only 7,500 of its 21,000 students are white. Femi Bola, the formidable head of employability is skeptical. She has seen many organizations turn up promising much and delivering little. I rely on Jackie, a take-no-prisoners former FT journalist, to convince her that we are for real.
We realize that it is not enough to devise and fund the program – we will have to pay the graduates a training allowance too. They simply cannot afford to work unpaid for 10 weeks. I appeal to Andrew Fenwick, Brunswick’s finance director, to sponsor the scheme.
Monday June 2
Brunswick agrees; we can go ahead and advertise for six UEL graduates.
I spoke too soon. We discover that we risk falling foul of the Race Relations Act if our advertisements exclude white applicants. Time to consult the lawyers – yet another unforeseen cost. The solution includes finding proof – not just anecdotal evidence – of a lack of diversity in PR.
Next, working with the Brunswick team, we decide the selection criteria; design an application form, web pages and information packs; plan the curriculum and arrange training sessions and external visits and speakers. We organize furniture, computers and software. Finally, we plan assessment days when we will put our shortlisted applicants through their paces. We book the Stephen Lawrence Centre, set up in memory of the murdered black teenager, in Deptford, south-east London. It is a symbolic venue for the final stages of a selection process which we hope will, in a modest way, help to tackle the issue of diversity in our industry.