33% of black, asian and minority ethnic (BAME) 16-24 year olds are still classed as ‘neets’ – not in employment, education or training – compared to 17% of their white counterparts. HR functions must be mindful of BAME audiences in their youth recruitment strategies. Understanding recruitment barriers affecting young BAME people is crucial if organisations want to benefit from diverse talent. From our research we know what actions business can take to ensure fair and equal recruitment of BAME people, including:

  • Mandatory unconscious bias training for staff involved in recruitment
  • Review assessment centres’ processes to check they’re inclusive and not biased against ethnic groups
  • Request diverse lists of candidates from external recruitment agencies.

These actions assume the organisation is attracting diverse applicants, which is not always the reality. We know BAME applicants primarily use company websites to look for jobs. Is your online presence inviting to them? Do you include images of your BAME employees, whom young BAME jobseekers can relate to, and is your diversity and inclusion policy clearly visible?

Careers support

Employers should also be aware that many young people lack access to comprehensive careers support. Recent research from the Association of Colleges found that 70% of young people trust their parents for job advice, yet employers can’t expect family networks to hold up-to-date careers knowledge. Businesses need to inspire and inform young people about available career opportunities and how to get there, as well as practical support during recruitment.  Investing in pre-employment activity will pay dividends in inspiring and attracting BAME talent. An effective approach is through partnerships with schools, colleges or universities with higher rates of BAME students. Activity could span internship or apprenticeship events, sector and role-specific career workshops, and application and interview practice.

The importance of mentoring

Mentoring is also highly effective, and HR functions should encourage staff to mentor young BAME people via employee networks to boost talent pipelines – and to support personal development. Race for Opportunity recently piloted a successful mentoring circle model for 91 unemployed young people in partnership with Brixton Jobcentre Plus (JCP). The circle’s 10 participating employers* gave mentees insight into recruitment processes and expectations of entry level candidates, and delivered application and interview practice. Thirty mentees have since found employment, and we are exploring how to replicate this model across more JCP centres. Claire Wheatley, general manager, HR at Weir Group, one of the participating employers, said: “As a global organisation, Weir appreciates the value and perspective that a diverse workforce can offer. Supporting the mentoring circles was a very positive experience and enabled us to work with some fantastic young people who had real potential. Spending time listening to some of the challenges these young faced in finding a job, something many of us take for granted, was humbling and extremely valuable in understanding how the company can attract and recruit diverse talent. Through the mentoring experience, we were able to share advice and insight with the young people on how to sell yourself and your skills to future employers. For our employees, mentoring was a valuable experience for their own personal development, as well as awareness around some of the challenges ethnic minority groups can have when seeking employment. For me personally it was a pleasure to be able to give something back.”

Room for improvement

Sadly, certain sectors remain closed off to BAME young people. Our research found 30% were turned off by the prospect of a career in media, 28% about the legal sector and 25% on finance. Employers can take steps to open up their talent pipelines to those from diverse backgrounds, but more effective cross-sector collaboration will go even further in inspiring BAME young people to consider a career in their industry. We know that HR functions across all sectors are increasingly concerned about the UK’s current skills challenge. Knowing how to access the best young BAME talent must be part of the solution to make their business fit for the future. * Some of the organisations who took part in the mentoring circles included: The Army, Barclays Bank plc, Capgemini UK plc, EDF Energy plc, Google UK Ltd, Pertemps Ltd, Transport for London and The Weir Group

Written by Sandra Kerr

Sandra Kerr

Sandra is the National Director for Race for Opportunity, a business-led network of organisations from the private and public sector working and committed to race equality as part of their business agenda.

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