Ways to reach and recruit underrepresented groups

Provided by IPA CPD Adviser Gwyn March

IPA CPD Adviser Gwyn March provides an extensive list of initiatives and services that help you as an employer to reach and recruit underrepresented groups.

AdUnlocked – you can sign up for autumn 2022.  Alternative ways to connect with schools are organisations like Speakers for Schools or to approach the local education authority and ask them to pair you as mentors to the school in their area with the biggest number of kids in the sin bin.  (NB if you want to go younger than final year or sixth form volunteer to help The Ideas Foundation founded by ad legend Robin Wright - this article says so much about its aspirations and achievements.) 

The IPA has previously worked closely with Debut to connect agencies with diverse, creatively driven and enthusiastic talent. Employers can reach out on the site direct – I noticed TikTok doing so. The IPA in partnership with Debut has hosted two talent spotting events. The Debut offering gives agencies access to more than 70,000 entry-level candidates via their pioneering career app.  It can be filtered in any way you like e.g. school leavers from backgrounds where they had free school meals, grads who didn't do advertising type degrees and are the first in their family to go to uni etc. 

Start your own virtual or live incubator or you could advertise on the IPA jobs board - it is free for IPA members. (And lots of entry talent ads do appear there especially for digital...). 

Work with organisations such as Brixton Finishing School. It is very well respected as Ally Owens has a brilliant pipeline into underrepresented groups, she will train them up and then 'sell' them to her supporter agencies.  But please note again -they are therefore nearly always not suitable to be accepted onto some apprenticeships because their knowledge/skills/behaviours may already be too advanced and Government won't let levy money go to train them in these scenarios.  

If you are keen to reach beyond the classic middle-class nature of the industry you could partner with/pay Commercial Break - "We're a transformation agency focused on increasing working-class representation in the creative and marketing industries.”  They are very hot on making sure that acquisition isn’t the end – that you retain the person you’ve tried so hard to find. 

But there are other places to find underrepresented groups, such as The Princes Trust.

An alternative provider is Marketing Debuts, run by the industry Club.  Their approach is to take a brief from an agency and find youngsters to do one of three apprenticeships such as Social Media and Community Management, then train them.  

Impact Futures are another provider who will recruit for Digital Marketer (they do three versions – Standard, Social and SEO) and charge nothing to do it – they use the National Apprenticeship site, plus Indeed and Get My First Job.  Although they screen for eligibility before sending the candidates to the client it is not clear if this would also work for diverse groups. They have an enormous rolling programme for that standard and can take just one person from an agency onto it almost immediately. They will also recruit for traineeships. This is a government-backed scheme where the agency would receive £1,000 per 16-24 aged trainee for every six-weeks work placement and interview for apprentice role or other job, arranged by training providers in the scheme.  A try before you buy plan!  It was running alongside Kickstart, which has now closed.

There are also apprenticeship training providers who will often help with recruitment - such as The Bauer Academy or All Spring Media.  Bauer for example worked with a major creative agency to find candidates for creative apprenticeships.  They can offer tailor-made recruitment solutions (such as assessment centres) and always put vacancies on their social and marketing channels.

Multiverse was originally set up as a training provider to offer an alternative for diverse groups who couldn’t afford to go to university. They typically take 20% of any group of 200, but continue to work with the unsuccessful ones to encourage them to reapply for digital, tech, data and project management apprenticeships. They regularly recruit for cohorts in agencies but also have a rolling programme onto which single candidates can be dropped. They are proud of a number of stats: 90% completion rate, 87% stay between 2.5 and 4 years, Ofsted rate them outstanding in all categories.

Our Fairness Hub lists some people to possibly partner with. Possibly worth a look are The Social Mobility Foundation, or Creative Mentor Network but also some less well-known routes worth consulting such as Creative EqualsThe Future is ND etc. as well as some terrific organisations/training that can help you keep your diverse talent such as the IPA Stepping into the Spotlight programme.

Uptree is another outreach partner who can help you "connect with a diverse audience of engaged young people. Focus your recruitment outreach towards our UK-wide network of motivated, enthusiastic students, many from low-income or BAME backgrounds. We work directly with schools, which means we can target specific groups more effectively." 32% of the students on their books have free school meals. They seem to run events and lectures so that employers can get themselves in front of (mainly virtual) students – upcoming were ones from Publicis Media Group, J.P. Morgan and Google. There is a case study of how Uptree helped Ogilvy connect with diverse groups.

The ERIC app may be a good place to put a profile so that Gen Zs can learn about you and maybe approach you direct. I was recently recommended this new app by colleagues on the Creative Industries Council. It aims to help Gen Z interested in any creative career to come to the site and cross paths with employers. 

The founders have a community reach of 150,000 16-25s through their many events and festivals although I'm not sure how many of these are signed up to the app yet. The IPA have a profile up which includes case studies from young people who have joined the industry. But you can sign up with them for your own agency as well, the content of which you can edit and adapt, I know a few agencies/groups are considering this. 

Another way you might want to try to reach those interested in a career in advertising would be to get your employees to agree to join their mentoring push.  For more about the ERIC app please contact Mae Yip, the co-founder, [email protected]

You can also advertise for apprentices on the Government website. They claim they have 900,000 applicants registered. Most training providers would advise you to do so.

A handful of agencies have already signed up to take interns next summer off the #10000 Black Interns project.  There is a waiting list but worth registering and maybe going to one of their regular information sessions.   

Slightly similar, but much smaller, and only relevant within selected west of England areas is The Strive Internship.  Some agencies already mentor within XLP and give work experience – but it is also only for inner London:  "XLP is about creating positive futures for young people growing up on inner-city estates in London, struggling daily with issues such as family breakdown, unemployment and educational failure, and living in areas that experience high levels of anti-social behaviour and gang violence." In the North West The Juice Academy recruits and places up to 20 apprentices a quarter onto a souped-up version of the Junior Content Producer apprenticeship. 

A couple of agencies have taken young people via Ambitious for Autism’s work experience push (Employ Autism).  “Employers will need to complete a one-day course provided by us before the start of the placement. You will be required to review your current internal recruitment and selection processes. This includes developing autism-friendly resources and making any adjustments to accommodate candidates at interviews and to complete the work placement. Placements can last from four weeks to six months, depending on the employer. During the work placement, each young person will need to have support from a line manager and a mentor, who we will train and support.”

Exceptional Individuals provide consulting, recruitment and employment support to employers and individuals with dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD and autism.  They offer training (e.g. Managing Neurodivergent People) and recruitment services.  They claim to have hundreds of talented neurodiverse people on their books.

Black Young Professionals have a jobs board to post on, but also offer all sorts of recruitment services.  You can also give talks or mentor some of the people on their books – 50,000 they claim.  And they can train to retain with workshops like "The Black Experience’"

Key4Life: You cannot get more diverse than young offenders. They work with over 100 corporates to give these kids a chance.  You can mentor or you could host a 3-day work taster to help diversify your workforce: "carefully pre-screened, coordinated work tasters are low-risk ways to meet talented, diverse people you wouldn’t have otherwise met."

Of course there is always LinkedIn recruitment and this is still the main way many agencies look for professionals of all ages.  You can do several things to increase the diversity of applicants e.g. "you can spotlight company DEI leaders under the “Life” tab and drive meaningful engagement by promoting DEI content or hiring events using Campaign Media​." They can help you by hiding photographs and names and genders and age to help with unconscious bias. 

Rare Recruitment  say they are leaders in graduate diversity recruitment.  They certainly have a huge and impressive client list – M&S, National Audit Office, WPP, GSK, Credit Suisse etc. They do their own research reports e.g. Unconscious Bias in Recruiting, and arrange for development of candidates in various ways.  One of their case studies is a Senior Media Planning Director at Essence. They have a host of awards, one from the CIPD.

If you are interested in balancing the skewed age of our industry and employing people over 45, you could take a leaf out of WWP’s book and organise something like Visible Start; or recruit from an organisation like Digital Mums: "We have a big vision here at Digital Mums to support every mother to become a lifelong learner. We believe this is the route to reducing maternal unemployment and supporting women into rewarding, flexible careers." They, for example, teach the candidates social media marketing skills. Campaign and various newspapers have lauded their approach.

Last updated 16 June 2022