Lewis – which has more than 500 staff across 24 offices in Asia, Europe and North America – said it will offer "the freedom to choose a career in the marketing industry without a degree or relevant work experience".
The agency cited data that shows in 2020, unemployment rates globally for people aged 15 to 24 was 8.7 per cent, compared to 3.7 per cent for older adults. Workplaces will "miss out on talent if degrees are entrance requirements for employment", it said.
The programme launch comes as many PR employers talk of the difficulties in hiring and retaining staff during what has been termed the 'great resignation'. Recent research by Hanson Search of mostly UK- and EU-based comms and marketing employees found almost one-third were questioning whether their current career is right for them and considering alternative paths.
Successful participants in Lewis' Rise Academy will be offered full-time paid positions in areas of the business including creative, strategy, technical or client servicing. The agency said the programme is an "evolution" of its Marketing Masters, but will include elements supporting inclusion and integration. It will involve training, certification, shadowing and a global work exchange programme.
Sarah Ogden, recently appointed as managing director of Lewis in the UK, said: “We value diversity and are committed to making our industry more accessible to a wider talent pool. We want candidates to thrive and are investing in delivering a development programme that heroes inclusive practices, processes and equity for candidates, regardless of background. It’s not about where they are from but where they are going, and the candidates’ ability to reach their potential."