The industry must push beyond BAME internship schemes to make PR & comms more 'colourful'

My PR career began in 2012 after I secured a place on the training programme run by the Taylor Bennett Foundation.

The industry hasn’t been proactive in recruiting a diverse workforce outside of a few schemes, argues Emmanuel Ofosu-Appiah
The industry hasn’t been proactive in recruiting a diverse workforce outside of a few schemes, argues Emmanuel Ofosu-Appiah

The Taylor Bennett Foundation training scheme was a programme set up by Heather McGregor – also known as the FT’s Mrs Moneypenny – and it encourages graduates of black and ethnic minority (BAME) backgrounds to pursue communications careers.

Without this programme hundreds of other BAME graduates like me wouldn’t be in this industry.

Diversity 'kite mark' for employers part of Blueprint to boost BME presence in PR

It has been seven years since then, and I have gone on to work for some of the most well-respected agencies in London, such as FTI Consulting and Kekst CNC, who have all been supportive of schemes like The Taylor Bennett Foundation and taken on graduates from it.

Despite these types of schemes, there is still a challenge that many agencies and clients are failing to address, which is the fact that there is a chronic lack of BAME graduates from entry level to senior positions across the board.

Having prominent senior BAME representation across the industry would ensure that BAME graduates feel that they have a place in our industry and can succeed.

The truth is that BAME graduates can only feel at home in any environment if they see others like them in the industry.

To date, the industry hasn’t been proactive in recruiting a diverse workforce, outside of a few schemes.

This requires making contact with students from ethnic backgrounds before they reach university.

The industry should follow suit of other industries...and prioritise interacting with schools in disadvantaged communities to ensure that students from these backgrounds are inspired and informed about the communications industry at an early age.

Emmanuel Ofosu-Appiah, corporate comms professional

The industry should follow suit of others, such as banking and professional services, and prioritise interacting with schools in disadvantaged communities to ensure that students from these backgrounds are inspired and informed about the communications industry at an early age.

Currently a lot of graduate and work experience positions are accidentally 'gifted' to friends of the agency or affiliates of the business.

This is another detrimental barrier to the wider talent pipeline as live roles are given to graduates who have a connection to the business.

This means that graduates from ethnic backgrounds or lower-income families may already be playing catch-up before entering the industry.

In my own case, my father was a bus driver and my mother a medical assistant, which meant that I had no obvious connection to the communications world before the Taylor Bennett Foundation scheme.

There is still not enough visibility of communications as a credible profession among BAME households.

I have been asked on many occasions by family members in the past what the communications profession entailed and even questioned about my choice of career after leaving university; an issue many BAME graduates face from their family, who may be from a generation who view professions such as being a doctor or a lawyer as the ideal option for a better career.

The PR industry has come a long way in terms of initiatives to raise awareness and build a more ethnically diverse talent pipeline.

The only way to make the industry more 'colourful' is to start engaging with young people from a BAME background at an early age, in order to shift the mind-set that communications isn’t for them.

Emmanuel Ofosu-Appiah is a corporate communications professional

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in