By Alan Morgan, Director at Portland,
In the UK today, a number of our professions including politics, law and the arts remain dominated by people from “more privileged” backgrounds. The statistics on my own industry are a sobering reminder of how much work there is to do to improve diversity.
In the communications industry there is broad agreement that there is a robust business case for diversity.
In an increasingly complex and fast-moving global media landscape, our job is to advise clients on how to understand and communicate with increasingly diverse audience groups.
The best consultancies have always been those that recruit people with a wide array of views, backgrounds and life experiences. In my own team, I work with colleagues from all walks of life, with nationalities including Jordan, Lebanon, India and Kenya.
The first question that any agency will ask is where do we access talent from lower socio-economic backgrounds? Often these young people don’t have access to friends or family within the industry who can point them in the right direction, nor do they have a degree from a Russell Group university. The old adage of getting your foot in the door doesn’t hold for a lot of these young people.
The starting point for me was finding out which organisations looked to connect disadvantaged young people with the world of work.
I quickly discovered Career Ready, and was immediately impressed by the practical approach they employed. Through mentorships, internships, masterclasses, and employer-led activities, the organisation is unapologetically focused on getting young people’s feet through the door.
Their CEO Anne Spackman is a former journalist and I have been reliably informed that she also had to push open some doors from time to time as a reporter.
In my time with Career Ready I have been fortunate enough to work with incredibly bright and talented students, and the dedicated staff at Barking and Dagenham College. It was through the College that I was introduced to Jephta Asamoah, a final year Business Studies student with a keen interest in politics and current affairs.
As well as being a young black man, Jephta is also deaf. I was excited to work with him as a mentor, but worried that not being able to use sign language would mean that I couldn’t deliver what he needed. What first struck me upon meeting Jephta was how little he let his disability define him. With his brilliant interpreter Michelle, Jephta and I instantly bonded over a mutual interest in politics and current affairs. The more I learnt about Jephta and his life, the more I admired and respected him for the perseverance he has shown to get so far.
Last summer I was delighted to arrange for Jephta to undertake a four-week internship with Portland Communications. Throughout his time at Portland he worked on a variety of projects, carrying out valuable research and media monitoring for clients. The staff at Portland loved working with him and were impressed by his attention to detail and creative ideas at brainstorm meetings.
I am proud to say that following his internship, Jephta was awarded a place at Lancaster University to study Politics and International Relations. He was also recently awarded the Leidos UK Student of the Year at the Career Ready awards, a national award with hundreds of entrants. I am confident that Jephta will thrive at university and eventually succeed in his chosen career path.
For any organisation within our industry looking to improve the diversity of their workforce, they can no longer say that access to talent is a barrier. Organisations like Career Ready are working desperately hard to open the doors, it is our job to welcome them in and put the kettle on. It is how every great conversation begins.
If you would like to help boost social mobility in your organisation, visit www.careerready.org.uk to find out how you can get involved.