It has been a year since the first tranche of 11 nervous apprentices joined their PR agencies and in-house teams, after the PRCA launched the PR Apprenticeship scheme.
It has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride since then. We welcomed our new training partner Creative Process in February and have now started 74 apprentices on their journeys to become PR professionals.
Best of all, we have just proudly watched nine of that first tranche of apprentices gain permanent jobs.
Step forward Lydia Hayward at Tala; Dani-Lee McCarthy at Nelson Bostock Communications; William Hardy at Cake; William Alego at Grayling; Daniel Bailey, Jemma Wythe and Luke Taylor at Whiteoaks; and Jessica Kirby at Cirkle, the winner of the Regional Higher Apprentice of the Year for the Thames Valley.
In addition, Hayley Taylor, who spent her apprenticeship at Grayling, has now been handed a permanent role at Bite Communications. Congratulations to all for their hard work and dedication.
But let us just think about that for a moment; we have enabled nine young people who did not necessarily go to university to get a job in an industry that they would not previously have had a huge chance of entering.
Why is this important? Because diversity is a huge problem for the PR industry and we desperately need to widen the pool of candidates outside white middle-class people from the Home Counties. If we do not, I fear this profession will become woefully irrelevant.
The PRCA, under the strident leadership of our Diversity Network leaders Tanya Joseph and Robert Phillips, is finding ways to improve diversity rather than just talking about it.
There is our internship programme, which has seen 111 organisations commit to paying interns the minimum wage; the schools outreach programme that we launched in October, intended to introduce PR as a career choice to a diverse range of young people; and last month we sat senior representatives from 11 of the top 20 PR agencies around a table to get commitments on what they can do to improve diversity.
We will be announcing more in the coming weeks, but be sure of this: the PRCA is committed to real change. Are you? Find out more at prapprenticeships.com.
Francis Ingham is PRCA director-general and ICCO executive director