The initiative was triggered by the results of its new research, which investigated factors behind the under-representation of black and minority ethnic (BME) groups in the comms industry.
The research actually showed more BME students were considering a career in PR than the average (nine per cent to seven per cent).
But crucially the survey uncovered a general lack of understanding of what the profession involves; among all 16- to 18-year-olds, 70 per cent said they could not answer the question.
The CIPR is seeking to remedy this by engaging with younger schoolchildren, aged 14 to 16, for the first time.
The CIPR has lined up a range of speaking opportunities at schools through a body called EBSI, starting at Brentside High School in Ealing this month.
‘That’s something we’re looking to do for 14, 15 and 16-year-olds throughout the country,’ said Andy Ross, senior policy officer at the CIPR.
Speakers will be carefully picked from volunteering CIPR members. ‘We need to make sure we’re not putting forward white middle-class men or women in senior positions as role models all of the time,’ added Ross.
The CIPR is also changing the way it presents the career on the web. In the next couple of months it will launch a Tumblr site containing PR career information framed for young people. ‘We will work with careers officers to get that information to students,’ said Ross.
He added: ‘The research has told us we need to do a lot more about improving the understanding of exactly what PR is.
‘We need to have a larger presence in schools and colleges, and offer students positive role models.
‘I’m talking about engaging with a general audience but also making sure that when we go to schools and colleges in communities with a high ethnic minority population that the people who go to speak to them are from their background too.’
The research conducted by ComRes polled 1,229 16-to 18-year-olds selected as a nationally representative group by age, gender, region and ethnicity.
How I see it
Tom Watson, Professor of PR, Bournemouth University
The CIPR initiative is a real long-term investment in the future of PR, whether students do degrees, apprenticeships or enter after completing a first degree. The focus on attracting those from BME backgrounds is welcome, as PR is just too British, white and female for its future relevance.
Olivia Wilson, PR student, University of Westminster
I knew about the importance of the PR industry, but I was not clear on the impact it has on the media until I began my PR course at university. Promoting the industry to students is a great idea due to the fact that PR is stimulating, diverse and, most importantly, exciting.
Parents have ‘lack of understanding’ of PR industry
The CIPR’s research found the greatest influence on child-ren’s choice of career was their parents, but they had a ‘general lack of understanding’ of the PR industry, according to one training specialist.
Seventy-three per cent of 16- to 18-year-olds said their family had a strong influence on their career decisions. The figure was higher among BME students at 80 per cent.
Less influential were the media, recorded at 39 per cent, teachers at 56 per cent and friends at 40 per cent. Sarah Stimson, course director at the Taylor Bennett Foundation, which strives to increase diversity in the comms industry through training programmes, said there was a ‘general lack of understanding’ from parents about the PR industry.
She said the foundation’s graduate trainee programme had taken several students who were encouraged by parents to study law degrees before switching to the comms arena.
But she added that the industry needed to improve its access to young people: ‘If your parents or friends of parents work in PR, then it ?is easier to get the right experience and access to the industry.’
7% Percentage of people aged 16-18 who are considering a career in PR
70% Respondents who were unfamiliar with what a career in PR involved
9% Respondents who thought PR meant ‘celebrity public image management’
73% Percentage of students who said their family influenced their career choice
All figures are taken from the CIPR's Future Perspectives survey by ComRes