Cathy Bussey: Interns scheme sets fine example

This week, PRWeek welcomed some very special guests.

Cathy Bussey: Interns scheme sets fine example
Cathy Bussey: Interns scheme sets fine example

Six interns from the Taylor Bennett Foundation spent the morning with the news team observing our news meeting and asking questions. This is the second time PRWeek has welcomed interns into our offices for a morning and the candidates never fail to impress.

What's doubly impressive about the Taylor Bennett Foundation programme is not only the calibre of the interns it attracts, but also its contribution to improving diversity within the PR industry.

We have long suspected the industry is overwhelmingly white and middle-class, and figures from our recent PR Census, a joint project with the PRCA, have shown the situation is if anything worse than we initially thought.

A disproportionate 92 per cent of the PR industry is white. The UK workforce overall is 88 per cent white, so the PR industry is lagging behind.

The industry is also highly educated - according to our census 66 per cent of the PR workforce is educated to graduate level, and 22 per cent is educated to masters level.

But talk to a PR agency or in-house comms team and you will hear the same story over and over again. Talent is their biggest challenge - there isn't enough talent out there to fulfil demand.

The solution is obvious. The PR industry needs to widen its scope, and throw its arms open to talent from all walks of life - not just those who have trodden the same well-worn paths.

There are some encouraging steps being taken. The Taylor Bennett Foundation is one example, and appears to be flourishing - already a further programme is planned for autumn 2011 and three more are scheduled for 2012. Talk PR, MHP and Brunswick have all lent their time and support to the programmes but the foundation is always on the lookout for mentors - account director or above - for interns, hosts for field trips - like PRWeek -and speakers to impart knowledge to the interns.

And elsewhere, as revealed this week on prweek.com/uk, Shine Communications has launched an apprenticeship scheme for school-leavers.

With many students facing bills of £9,000 a year in tuition fees alone, this kind of scheme will offer those who simply cannot contemplate the costs required to complete a university degree a valid and - crucially - paid route into the PR industry.

Let's hope agencies and comms teams complaining of lack of talent take note, and look at what they can do to encourage more representative talent into the industry.

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