Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Combating the Under-Representation of People Of Colour In The Workplace

I moved to a new department last month and it’s very different to what I have been used to during my three years with my current employer. I am one of the oldest (in age) within the team (I’ve not left my 20’s lol). The majority of the staff are trainees and apprentices, so aged between 16-22 years old and from Black and other ethnic minority backgrounds.

I’ve never worked in a team so diverse like this. I was quite surprised because of the nature of the work we do and the people we serve (our local councillors). However, the more I am here the more I see why the team is so young and diverse; representing the community we live in and preparing the younger generation for work within a large organization, corporate office or for a career in politics (one of our councillors is only 21 years old), social policy, law, or whatever field they choose to embark in where at present, black and ethnic minorities are underrepresented.

The apprentices and trainees are working under a training scheme that provides equal opportunities for people of colour and from low income backgrounds and who do not have higher education qualifications. The organization is called PATRA incorporating ACDA. I am familiar with the organization because I did voluntary work and training with them back in 2010 while I was unemployed.

I remember having a discussion with a former employee of mine who was against the idea of such traineeships only being afforded to people of colour and that it should be ran for everyone. Although I understood her point of view and agree that everyone should be given the same opportunities, this particular organization and others were specifically set up to give black and ethnic minority groups an equal standing in the labour market where once upon a time, this was not happening.

Although times have changed, why devalue the work and stop it when it’s actually been successful? Some of these apprentices have gone on to have full time permanent positions and are doing well. Who’s knows where they would have been if such opportunities were not created specifically for them?

We have to remember that people of colour were not given opportunities to work in corporate offices or in senior positions before and it’s through these types of initiatives and organizations that tackled this issue under legislation, such as the Equality Act 2010, that more opportunities for us were created.

I can remember as a law student at university being told (by another black person) that I shouldn’t think about a career in law because that’s a “white man’s job”. And true it was, until people of colour stepped up and decided to fight for equal rights for us to establish careers in predominately white sectors.

Maybe that particular person who made the comment grew up in a household with that mentally and therefore couldn’t see beyond that. But having organizations such as PATRA opens the minds of our young black men and women, where at home, they are not being aspired to see beyond race as an obstacle.

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