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Inclusive diversity recruitment- see it, say it, (sort it) stop it with apologies and thanks to TFL

Dr Maxine Room CBE, Medacrii Associates Ltd
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I was recently in London attending a book launch preceded by a panel discussion. Five entrepreneurs sharing their journey. All of them had shunned being recruited to a traditional job route. One had started a WhatsApp community of black women in tech helping and supporting them through building their confidence to go for it. One had started making podcasts after being disillusioned with his work in the corporate world. Another one had started a tech company after getting interested in coding and going on an intensive course. The final two had also set up companies out of frustration with their jobs and careers. One of these two Sonya Barlow had written a book (hence the launch) The Unprepared Entrepreneur.

Listening to their stories of failure and success I was surrounded by similar hopeful adult entrepreneurs of all ages. Eager to understand more and to make changes to their working lives they questioned the panel. The themes were curiosity, consistency, commitment, communication and confidence. Talking to some of them was a revelation, learn coding in 9 weeks full time or 24 weeks part time and become a junior developer. Don’t we do that in the learning and skills sector? Some were changing careers and jobs and following their dreams of working for themselves. What was also fascinating was the venue. Converted stables in the East End of London. Nothing fancy but functional. The company who hosted it runs software building and data science programmes at very competitive but not cheap rates. World acclaimed courses. Do we ever say that in our sector? With Employability guaranteed. Does FE make that promise? From this event and my recent contributions on education and inclusive diversity at the Crypto Summit in London, Crypto Gibraltar and Digital Asset Week, London

I was keen to share all the information I had gathered with colleagues in the FE sector and beyond. Excited to promote a diverse digital sector, future forward thinking in data science, blockchain, digital ledger technology and the rest. An opportunity to open my network.

It was all going so well. Until I met Ruth* (not her real name.) She works in recruitment. I was keen to share my experiences of the event with the need to publicise it and broadcast to recruiters. The opportunities in the tech world of work for young people and adults transitioning from colleges and ITPs seemed endless. The investment in learning and skills in the recent budget hopeful to support this.

Her view was we have a long way to go in terms of inclusive diversity even though there had been improvement from 2018 but them reasons were not as positive as you might think. She was unfortunately echoing views I had been hearing from my coachees and colleagues

Endemic and systematic in the recruitment process in and out of our sector are stereotypes prejudice and bias. Why was I shocked to hear of the overt catalogue of candidates not to put forward? Not in 2021?

No pregnant women or women likely to get pregnant.

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No African men too unreliable.

No Afro Caribbeans they don’t turn up.

Check the ages, disabilities i.e. intersectionality, and so it went on. She did say it was getting better but not because there was enlightenment or a real will to do it better. It was about box ticking. Gender, tick, LGBTIA+, tick, Disability, tick.Black tick etc etc.

So a plea to all of you in the learning and skills sector.

If you see racism, bias or discrimination in recruitment say it, if you are able to do things differently, sort it but most of all stop it….other wise all that extra funding, which is not enough by the way, going into learning and skills will not help the thousands let alone the 9 million it is supposed to support into jobs.

Dr Maxine Room CBE, Medacrii Associates Ltd

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