"Gestures cost money: to achieve benefits and avoid costs, businesses need to see diversity as a strategic resource.” (Department of Business Innovation and Skills, 2013)
Two and a half years ago a former government adviser (me), a well-known talent agent and an experienced charity developer got together to take a small step towards improving ethnic diversity in the UK’s creative industries.
You’d think the creative sector – given all the nice, open-minded, talented people that populate it - would operate as a meritocracy wouldn’t you.
Where the brightest and the best rise to the top. Right?
Wrong. At least when it comes to people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, the story is different.
Despite being 1 in 8 of the UK population and now over 50% of the student body at some London Universities, the proportion of people from non-white backgrounds working in the creative sector is down at 5% and much lower at senior levels. And it’s getting worse, declining in recent years.
From IPA figures, the ad sector appears to do relatively better, but is still far behind the City diversity profiles where most companies operate. Birmingham and London now have BAME populations of 40% plus.
The charity we established in 2012 – Creative Access – asks two basic questions: how can the media reflect society if society is not reflected in the media? And how can creative companies sell products and ideas to the whole community, if they don’t employ people that make up a substantial part of it?
The strategic response we proposed is to recruit and train a substantial number of talented BAME young people – over 500 in the first four years - across the creative industries to begin the process of change.
The scheme focuses on graduates and internships as this is the familiar entry-level route for many parts of the sector. This approach also means that the young people we introduce should have the capacity to rise quickly within organisations and soon become role models and recruiters themselves. So the process of change will gather its own momentum and sustainability.
Creative Access works under the Equality Act 2010 with companies across the sector to provide properly paid internships, for BAME graduates that last at least six months.
We realise that – with 85% of the sector being SME – media entrepreneurs don't have time to do a lot of extra outreach, especially when they have a queue of people waiting at the door. So we do that for them. We also realise that the cost of taking on trainees can be high, so we support that too.
We help companies and organisations recruit talented and enthusiastic young trainees from ethnic minority backgrounds from colleges and universities right across the UK.
Creative Access is about action and not just talk. We make things as easy as possible for the companies we work with – doing all the outreach and shortlisting of candidates to find the ideal match with each organisation. If a company decides to take on an intern, Creative Access provides funding to support up to 50% of the cost, at a level in line with the London Living wage.
We started out as a small privately funded Charity, but we are now supported by Creative Skillset and HM Government through employer ownership funding, because they too believe this change is important to the future health and competitiveness of our creative industries.
We provide our young people with pre-placement training - to improve their job-readiness and help them make the most of their internships – and a monthly Master class across the creative industries, with companies in publishing, theatre, television and film, music, advertising and PR.
This helps our interns – and our growing alumni - form a strong support network for each other, and also to see from across the sector how the most important thing is the creative idea, whichever part of the industry you work in.
We’ve created 230 internships so far; 80% of them have turned into full-time jobs.
We work with many world famous brands: the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky, NBCU, Shine, Random House, the Daily Mail, EMI, Hearst Magazines and CNN among them. We also support many, many smaller companies from across the creative sector.
In advertising we are already working with companies like VCCP, BBH and Jack Morton.
Recently Sarah Pascoe, Head of Print at BBH, wrote to us to say of her intern of six months, Olivia Crooks, “[Olivia] has been absolutely amazing. She has delivered on all that has been asked from her and she always follows up with the question, can she do more? She has wowed the creatives with her image searching prowess.”
Jaha Browne, a Creative Access intern at Jack Morton says: "Coming into Jack Morton through Creative Access has been a wonderful opportunity for me. I’ve gained invaluable experience of how agencies help brands engage customers, consumers and communities, and expanded my skills in moving image within a top brand experience agency."
Creative Access offers companies an approach that business analysts deem most likely to be successful: where equality and diversity become embedded in the business organisational strategy, not simply ad-hoc additions.
Advertising and marketing is the fastest growing area of the UK’s dynamo creative sector. Clearly there are many more companies out there we could be introducing to young people with fresh ideas and new perspectives.
If you think you might be one of them, please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Nigel Warner is Founding Director at Creative Access.
The IPA Future of Talent initiative endorses all initiatives to help increase BAME representation in our workforce. For more information email IPA Head of Diversity, Leila Siddiqi Leila@ipa.co.uk
Check out our Talent Hub to learn more about the recent Adaptathon.
Last updated 29/10/2014