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Insider UK
Peter A Walker

Scottish creative heavyweights partner for inclusion programme

A group of organisations from Scotland’s creative industries have joined to launch a new initiative to kickstart the careers of emerging talent from non-white ethnicities and/or low-income backgrounds.

Called UNLOCKED, the internship programme will go live today and challenges a known lack of representation by making it easier to access paid internships within some of the country’s most successful creative businesses.

Initial opportunities include positions within marketing, PR, design, television and advertising.

Creative agency John Doe - whose clients include Meta, Irn-Bru and TRNSMT festival - came up with the idea before approaching other agencies to join. Other founding partners include Leith Agency, The Union, Studio LR, STV, DC Thomson and Tennent’s Lager.

Up-to-date statistics on diversity in Scotland’s creative industries are thin-on-the-ground, with no official report having been published recently. However, a Creative Scotland study in 2016 found that a third of those reported that work training programmes, like internships, were unpaid, while 50% of those who were Black or minority ethnic found their ethnicities to be a barrier to employment.

Pam Scobbie, one of the owners of John Doe, doesn’t believe that the picture will have changed for the better since then - indeed, she reckons that the problem may even be worse.

“As long as I can remember, I always wanted to work in something creative but turning that dream into a reality was really difficult; I worked three other jobs so that I could take up an unpaid internship.

“I used to be asked ‘where I schooled’ and who my father knew when I’d go to interviews - and when I wouldn’t have a clue what they were on about, it was clear I didn’t have the job.

“So right from the off, I knew that your background, your connections and your disposable income made a massive difference to getting your break in the industries.

“I don’t come from money and neither do my business partners, so we had to really hustle, and I’m very mindful that I have the benefit of being white - add racial bias to the mix and I don’t know if I would ever have been able to build a business.“

She continued: “Just a few months past, I walked into a huge industry event and there were almost no Black and Brown people there, except for the waiters - and the vast majority of the guests were clearly privately educated - it’s still a bit of a closed shop, and we need to do something to change things up.

“In Scotland, where we’re less ethnically diverse than the likes of London, it’s too easy to say that hiring diversely is difficult - and it’s too easy to stay in your bubble and ignore the socio-economic divide.

“But that’s a cop-out, it just means that we need to put in a bit more legwork and intention, especially since issues like the cost-of-living crisis and the pandemic, which stopped entry-level people meeting the decision makers in real life, are meaning that any progress we’d taken as a whole feels like it’s rolled back.“

Applicants need no prior experience or qualifications and will be paid a minimum of living wage.

The aim is to create an annual programme, with organisers putting out the call for more companies to get involved.

The programme is also supported by key industry leaders from diverse backgrounds within the creative sphere, including Malath Abbas, game designer and director at Biome Collective; Letitia Lam, communications officer at Scottish Ballet; and Daniel Odoom, founder at Odoom Brothers.

Lam, who also started her own marketing business, said: “The UNLOCKED Internship Programme creates more of a level playing field for individuals that might not be able to enter the industry in a traditional way - it’s inviting talent that the industry may not usually get through the door.

“Regardless of who they are, it’s important for the next generation to have an open and diverse platform to work in.

“Scotland’s creative industry still has lots of room to grow when it comes to how we project and welcome diverse talent - part of that comes from a legacy of previous generations shaping how it currently looks.

“However, the landscape is already starting to change, so how we take this forward and develop our talent from here will influence the way we think, create and operate as an industry for years to come.”

Applications are open until late July and can be submitted via an online form. There’s no maximum age limit for applicants, however, all interns must be over 18.

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