A project to increase diversity among the region’s business leaders has been awarded £230,000.
The programme will see De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) work with Leicester businesses Freeths LLP, Eileen Richards Recruitment and Brewin Dolphin on the three-year programme.
It aims to increase diversity within the workforce of local businesses and the numbers of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) getting internships and jobs with businesses across the region and create more opportunities for high-skilled work in the local economy.
Research has found that, on average, BAME staff earn less than white counterparts in the workplace and are less likely to be in senior positions even though they are more likely to hold higher academic qualifications.
A lack of networks, mentors and role models has been identified as one of the barriers to progression, so a new in-work mentoring programme will be devised to give support and leadership training to DMU graduates starting their first job in Leicester.
Organisations including the Princes Trust, Access Generation CIC and Elevation Networks are backing the project, which is being funded by The Office for Students, contributing their knowledge and expertise to the programme development.
DMU will work with businesses and organisations to design a toolkit for companies that helps them improve upon their processes for recruiting BAME graduates and filling senior roles with people from diverse backgrounds.
Emma Anderson, Director at Freeths LLP, said: “We are delighted to be involved with this programme and the development of it following our joint event with Eileen Richards and Brewin Dolphin at Leicester Business Festival last November. Diversity and equality is at the heart of our business and we look forward to working with DMU to boost the employment opportunities on offer to BAME graduates and unlock their potential for the benefit of the students, employers and the local economy.”
Eileen Richards MBE, Director of Eileen Richards Recruitment, said: “As business leaders we are aware of how difficult it is to attract, retain and promote a diverse workforce, especially for smaller businesses who are very busy just doing the day job.
“We started a conversation on this last year as we know lots of us struggle in silence on this subject and we wanted to bring it into our everyday conversations to highlight that it’s a problem and work towards a solution. We are pleased to be working with De Montfort to now take that next step and help businesses tackle this and make sure our regional workforce is representative of our community.”
The project developed following a panel session chaired by DMU and organised by Freeths, Brewin Dolphin and Eileen Richards as part of the Leicester Business Festival called Let’s Be Brave About Equality which saw business leaders from organisations around Leicester and Leicestershire share the challenges and opportunities around recruiting more diverse talent.
In 2017, the McGregor-Smith Review said the UK economy could benefit from a £24billion-a-year boost if BAME people had the same opportunities in the workplace.
Adele Browne, Head of Careers and Employability, said: “DMU students have clearly told us they would welcome the university’s support in ‘getting in and getting on’ in the workplace as well as succeeding in their university course.
“It’s fantastic that DMU has this opportunity to run this project for our students, graduates and the city of Leicester, spear-heading change and creating BAME role models for future generations.”
The funding has come from the OFS new Challenge Competition fund, which supports innovative solutions to key challenges around students’ access to and progression through university.