Supporting diverse talent in London - Amanda J. Broderick
Supporting diverse talent in London
Professor Amanda J. Broderick, Vice-Chancellor & President, University of East London
We regularly hear that there is a large and growing skills gap in London, despite the capital being one of the most productive regions in Europe. Headline labour market indicators conceal significant inequalities amongst the highly skilled: Whilst talent may be spread equally across the population, systemic, structural reasons still exist contributing to why marginalised groups are both less likely to apply and be successful in securing graduate-level work experience and graduate employment.
London is one of the most diverse cities in the world but is also home to some of the most disadvantaged boroughs in the country. The University of East London (UEL) is one of the UK’s most socially inclusive universities and reflects this diversity, providing educational opportunities to many who might not otherwise have them.
Highly skilled graduates from the lowest socio-economic backgrounds* and those identifying from the global ethnic majority are less likely to be in full time graduate employment than their average counterpart.** Less than one third of employers train interview panels on their legal obligations and objective interview practice, less than one fifth make efforts to identify and remove bias. Traditional proxies of talent are slow to evolve in the recruitment process despite many organisations’ commitment to increasing diversity and inclusion. Whether those proxies remain effective as society evolves and a 5.0 economy beckons, is a challenge for all London employers.
The Diversity of Thought Employer Partnership Programme at UEL was conceptualised as a vehicle for driving aspiration and social mobility, supporting progressive employers to evolve recruitment and retention cultures. Through consultation with students and industry, we identified common challenges faced in accessing graduate roles within aspirational companies. Many of our graduates simply didn’t even consider these organisations at all and for those that did apply, the competitive selection processes were alien and daunting with a limited range of opportunities to demonstrate aptitude, attitude and professional skills advantage. The Diversity of Thought Programme was developed to directly address the key stages of the recruitment cycle where those from marginalised backgrounds would be less likely to be represented and successful.
With progressive partners including AWS, Siemens, ITV, WPP, Dataminr and MSG (New York), we co-created a bespoke programme with a compulsory element of 121 mentoring, exposure to professional environments, work-based learning and action-oriented demonstrations — enabling students to build skills and, most crucially, social capital, and also for employers to radically reflect on the talent required to create future competitive advantage.
To recruit students for these levelling-up programmes we use our ‘Talent Hack’, designed to allow students to shine and create dynamic connections with industry partners. Recent events with WPP, Coca Cola and Siemens, for example, resulted in a rapid increase in paid internships with companies that our students had struggled to access previously.
As the programme has built momentum, we are able to evidence the positive impact for both students and employers. Siemens, one of our first partners, has championed the programme and expressed how taking part has supported the organisation’s goal to diversify early talent pipelines, while WPP has hosted multiple cohorts of students on their programme, offering 25 per cent of the participants permanent roles with one of the world’s most prominent creative transformation companies.
Michael Ludlow, Talent Director for WPP, said: “We market and create advertising campaigns across the world and to do that we need people from all backgrounds offering authentic voices and varied life experiences. That’s why there is such synergy with this programme and the demographic of UEL”.
From over 2,500 blue-chip and SME employers actively engaged with UEL, our 16 Diversity of Thought partners have led the way in replacing old-fashioned proxies of talent with new solutions to the skills gap in the continuous next, supporting diverse talent who can drive forward organisations’ competitive advantage of the future.
Further development of this consortium of partners, collectively progressing and sharing best practice around attracting, recruiting, and retaining diverse talent is an ambition I hope shared with all BusinessLDN members as we transform the early talent recruitment process.
UEL’s careers‑1st approach, including the Diversity of Thought programme, has produced graduate career outcomes in the top UK10 for greatest gains. We are proud to be short-listed for The Times Higher Education University of the Year.