Campaigner and TV personality June Sarpong has praised a unique project to create a future workforce more representative of diverse Leicester.
She was speaking at the Make Diversity Your Business conference, which brought together black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) students with city companies to create a recruitment toolkit specifically for Leicester firms.
The pack project aims to tackle barriers to employment such as unconscious bias and promote more inclusive strategies.
“Culture change is never easy,” said June, who is the BBC’s Director of Creative Diversity. “Celebrate difference, that’s where the magic happens. The kind of impact you will have on Leicester will be so important.”
De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) together with business partners Freeths, Brewin Dolphin and Eileen Richards Recruitment won £230,000 funding from the Office for Students for the project, called Leicester’s Future Leaders.
The four-day conference at Leicester’s Marriott Hotel included training on unconscious bias, latest graduate recruitment trends and interview masterclasses run by experts Grad Consult.
Adele Browne, head of Careers and Employability at DMU, said: “The conference brought together businesses and students to learn directly from, and with, each other.
“This broke down barriers and led to exciting opportunities for the future hiring of graduate talent.”
As well as supporting firms to promote and hire a more diverse workforce, the project has also encouraged students to think more seriously about remaining in Leicester after they graduate.
Journalism student Mary De-Wind said: “Before coming to this conference I didn’t really have any expectations. I’m from London, and I never thought I would stay here but after meeting alumni and talking to businesses, there’s so many opportunities here to rise.”
Emmanuael Adeyemo, third year Media Production, said: “Being from London, I’d always thought I’d go back there after uni but now I’m 90 per cent going toward staying in Leicester. I’ve learned so much from this week and being able to meet businesses and hear about what’s happening in Leicester it’s showed us how much is going on.”
A group of 30 BAME students have been recruited to work on the project with businesses, giving their views and supporting the development of the toolkit, which will be unveiled at Leicester Business Festival.
Between now and the festival, Leicester-based businesses will now be testing and helping develop new ways of reaching wider talent pools of graduates.
Emma Anderson, of Freeths, said: “The businesses that engage with this important project will be given the tools to ensure that they have access to all of the talented graduates from Leicester and Leicestershire and so to develop and grow their business and ensure that it is representative of the wider society in which we all live and work.”
Nationally, just one in 16 top management positions in the UK is held by someone from a BAME background. Statistics show that BAME graduates are more likely to be on lower starting wages than their white counterparts.
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