About Us

About Us

AAI EmployAbility is the new name for Adopt an Intern.

This name better reflects our wider inclusive employment activity, comprised of recruitment, diversity support and bespoke social impact projects.

Since 2009, our team has been supporting businesses to grow and talented, diverse jobseekers to find professional purpose. We’ve worked with 1100+ businesses cross-sector and supported 1700+ people from all walks of life into meaningful employment.

Businesses come to us to access diverse jobseekers from all backgrounds into short-term as well as permanent roles. We help people make changes to their lives, help them break bad employment cycles and get into work that’s right for them. 

Group 23

Relationships

Group 21

Collaboration

Group 22

Equality of Opportunity

Meet the Team

Joy Lewis

Chief Executive & Board Member

Renée Philippi ​

Chief Operating Officer

Mandy Cheung

Operations Coordinator

Nick Murray

Enterprise Engagement Lead

Ross Pollard

Employability & Inclusion Consultant (Disability & Neurodiversity)

Jane Sloan

Talent Engagement Lead

Buki Oduntan

Business Support and Data Management Assistant

Siobhan Mercer​

Business Support and Data Management Assistant

Reham Nasr

Employability & Inclusion Consultant (Race, Culture & Wellbeing)

Joy Lewis

Chief Executive & Board Member

Jane Sloan

Talent Engagement Lead

Mandy Cheung

Business Support

Nick Murray

Marketing & Partnership Lead

Viana Maya

pRespect Project Lead

Ross Pollard

Employability & Inclusion Consultant (Disability & Neurodiversity)

Renee Philippi

Chief Operating Officer 

Deniss Zenčiks

Digital Marketing Coordinator 

Our History

In 2009 the economy was in a poor state and the creation of new jobs was exceptionally low. More and more graduates were leaving university and joining those already looking for work, desperate to step into the great jobs they had been told would fall at their newly-graduated feet.

Graduates were faced with an uphill battle, exacerbated by their lack of experience in the world of work. Too many were finding the only way to get a foot in the door was through unpaid internships and voluntary work.

Driven to put an end to this culture of unpaid internships, Joy Lewis began her dream of supporting unemployed and underemployed graduates into employment. The support was overwhelming.

Knowing that not only did graduates have a lot to offer, but that our economic future relied on the youth of today, Joy (unpaid herself at this stage) placed six graduates with six businesses. She started as AAI continues today, making sure all job opportunities are transparently advertised and that jobseekers are carefully shortlisted, supported and tracked afterwards.

2009

Adopt an Intern was born in late 2009 when Joy Lewis (now AAI’s CEO), supported and encouraged by her colleagues at the Centre for Scottish Public Policy (CSPP), decided to take action following a spate of requests from talented graduates desperate to work with them for free.

2009

2010

Joy approached the Scottish Government who agreed to help with funding. Within the first year she had placed 85 graduates into paid internships. The Scottish Government continued to support Adopt an Intern each year until 2017, allowing the expansion of more opportunities.
2010

2012

Adopt an Intern spun out of the CSPP and became an independent not-for-profit company, with its own board and three staff members (including a paid intern).

2012

2013

Adopt an Intern placed its 500th intern, while the team grew to five permanent members of staff and an array of freelance HR specialists.

2013

2015

Adopt an Intern celebrated placing its 1000th graduate into a paid internship and hosted its first ever Awards Ceremony, celebrating the achievement of interns and employers. Adopt an Intern won the Royal Bank of Scotland Customer Focus Award at the Scottish Business Awards.
2015

2017

The Scottish Government announced funding for Adopt an Intern to support women returners in the BAME community.

2017

2018

Alongside placing job-seekers into work, AAI also carried out social impact projects Disabling Barriers (sponsored by EVMT ProgRess Ltd) and Diversity Works project (again grant-funded by Scottish Government), highlighting issues for marginalised groups in the UK job market.
2018

2019

AAI wins SME of the Year at the Scottish Diversity Awards, Best Social Enterprise at the Women’s Enterprise Scotland Awards and Diversity in the Third Sector at the Herald and GenAnalytics Diversity Awards.

AAI EmployAbility is officially the new name for all of Adopt an Intern’s inclusive employment activity, including recruitment, diversity, consultancy and social impact projects (not just paid graduate internships).

2019

2020

AAI continued to develop new services for employers, specifically around diversity, inclusion and demystifying disability and neorodiversity in employment. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic AAI ran a virtual mindset support programme for minority ethnic individuals as well as facilitating work placements for furloughed professionals. The team also ran Inclusive Employment projects with Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Government. 

2020

Meet the AAI Board and Ambassadors

Joy Lewis

Joy joined the Centre for Scottish Public Policy in January 2009 and spun out AAI EmployAbility (then, Adopt an Intern) a year later. The company has since gone from strength to strength, placing over 1700 graduates and returners into valuable paid work across the UK.

She served for 20 years in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and has lived and worked in Brazil, Argentina and Germany. Joy also worked for many years in fashion retail where she recruited, trained and mentored sales managers, culminating in a successful business in Germany. 

After addressing their first employment injustice of unpaid graduate internships, Joy and team have widened their scope of inclusive employment to include diversity and inclusion services to help more businesses to grow and more talented people to access opportunity.

Renée Philippi

Renée started working with AAI in February 2020 to support and advise on all aspects of organisational development, operational processes, and general business management. With a diversity of business experience, from running her own start-up business and an independent consultancy based in her native America, to a UK posting with an international corporation, Renée is happy to use her proven strategic, operational, change, and project management skills to further AAI’s vision of increasing social mobility, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace.

Renée is a professionally trained public speaker who also provides adhoc training and mentoring in public speaking and presentation skills. An avid scuba diver, Renée does volunteer work relating to marine conservation and uses her underwater adventures as the basis for the children’s stories she writes in her spare time.

Mandy Cheung

Mandy joined the team in 2018 after participating in AAI’s Diversity Works project which inspired her to be part of a purpose-led team with equality of opportunity at its heart. Mandy ensures the smooth running of AAI’s operations and is the team’s go-to person for technical support. She also uses her keen eye for design to create content for AAI’s digital platforms.

Mandy has a Master’s in Product Design Engineering which influenced her passion to use technology to improve AAI’s processes, bridging the gap between IT and the business.

Mandy is passionate about broader representation for minority ethnic people and underrepresented groups which drives her work behind the scenes for AAI EmployAbility.

Nick Murray

Nick joined the team in 2017 after meeting Joy Lewis at an event in London run by his AAI internship host employer, the Scottish Business Network.

Before AAI, Nick spent 10 years in the speciality coffee business and is a former sponsored skateboarder. He brings these rather dubious transferable skills to AAI along with an undergraduate degree in History and an MSc in Marketing.

Nick’s focus is to continue to build and represent AAI to the best of his abilities, highlighting the company’s values and reputation to both jobseekers and employers. His passion for CSR, social impact and supporting purpose-led businesses makes him a visible and vocal member of the Scottish entrepreneurial ecosystem and the Scotland Can Do mission.

Ross Pollard

Ross joined the team in April 2018 as a Disability Employment Researcher looking at the issues facing disabled graduates breaking into the job market. He now works for AAI on a consultancy basis and run’s AAI’s Disabling Barriers workshops.

He is passionate about getting more disabled and neurodiverse people into work by breaking down barriers in society, as he is neurodiverse himself having ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).

Ross, carried out a year-long study with employers and disabled graduates, looking at the barriers in recruitment. These findings are used in the diversity and inclusion training Ross delivers to businesses. Ross was also trained as a public diplomat in Poland and believes in the importance of facilitating good dialogue between policymakers, businesses and disabled people.

Most recently he completed a certificate in counselling and in his spare time is retraining as a Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist to better support the mental health of disabled people.

Jane Sloan

Jane Sloan has worked freelance for AAI since 2013 as a Shortlister, regularly engaging with AAI’s diverse jobseeker audience for phone interviews and CV feedback procedures. With a varied career journey including Executive resourcing, mainstream recruitment and HR consultancy, Jane is a constant source of valuable ideas and support for all members of our team.
 
In March 2021 Jane joined AAI in a more permanent capacity as Talent Engagement Lead, consulting employers from businesses of all sizes on their recruitment needs and engaging with motivated jobseekers who apply for opportunities through AAI.
 
Jane also plays a vital role in AAI’s social impact projects, most notably in 2021’s Back to Work: Women Returners initiative, supporting women from minority ethnic backgrounds, in a one-to-one capacity, to build confidence and gain employment after a career break. Jane has continued with this hands-on approach to candidate management through AAI’s role as a Gateway Organisation for the UK Government’s Kickstart Scheme, supporting the onboarding and professional development of 100s of young jobseekers signed up to wrap-around employability training with AAI.
 
Jane brings a unique mix of holistic and practical training and support to her role, which compliments her years of experience in HR and recruitment. 

Buki Oduntan

Buki joined the team in February 2021 to support the technical side of AAI’s activity with the Kickstart Scheme and quickly became a vital member of that project, and the businesses’ wider client management processes.

She comes equipped with a wealth of experience in research, analytics and making sense of complex data-intensive projects, as well as her infectious laugh, good humour and positive attitude.

Siobhan Mercer

Siobhan joined AAI in April 2021 to support the team in a multi-dimensional role across business growth, communications and project delivery. Her initial focus has been assisting in activity around the Kickstart Scheme, building capacity in businesses and creating job placements for young people across the UK.

Prior to AAI, Siobhan had amassed a wealth of experience across the Third and Public Sectors in Scotland. She brings her strengths in organisational strategy, business transformation, communications and an impeccable eye for detail to the team.

Siobhan has a particular passion for the ‘inclusion’ side of AAI’s work, and is consistently working to help us to reach, and support, more people in a more accessible way.

Reham Nasr

Reham joined AAI in 2018 addressing the expansive employability barriers faced by minority ethnic individuals and employers, founders and executives. As a Muslim woman, she cleverly uses her visibility to build rapport, facilitate open dialogues and bridge gaps of understanding while promoting inclusion in the workplace. 

With nearly 20 years of experience in US and the Middle East, and 4 years in the UK and Europe, Reham uses her international multidisciplinary background in Conflict Analysis and Resolution, Personal & Executive Coaching and Mental & Emotional Health and Wellbeing to serve her clients and businesses alike. 

She has lent her expertise to innovative AAI projects supporting mental health, wellbeing, personal development, professional empowerment and employability, supporting work with both the Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise. 

Reham is passionate about giving a voice to the voiceless and ensuring equal and equitable opportunities are available to those that need them, regardless of race, gender or creed.

Viana Maya

Viana joined AAI in July 2019. Her journey with AAI started at the end of 2017 when she took part in the ‘Back to Work’ project supporting BAME Women Returners through which she was offered a 12-week placement with Drink Baotic.

This opportunity through AAI led Viana to gain part-time employment as an Employability Coordinator supporting BME refugees and migrants in Glasgow to access training or paid placement.

After managing and modifying this program, Viana started her own initiative, pRESPECT, that focuses on building confidence and empowering individuals to have better access to employment opportunities and upskilling. 

Viana has a BSc (HON) Web Design and Development from Edinburgh Napier University and Columnist at Holyrood Magazine.

Viana is passionate about empowering people to become self-sustaining in their careers and supporting them to develop better awareness and adaptability towards the changing technology and digital skills required in the ever-evolving workplace.

Deniss Zenčiks

Deniss is an ex-pat from Latvia. From a young age, he has been travelling abroad for studies and work. He completed three student exchanges in Germany, Finland and UK before choosing to settle down in Edinburgh where he completed a BA in Business Management and an MSc in International Business and Leadership.

Before coming to Scotland, he worked on multiple projects in business development and digital marketing, predominantly in the Third Sector. Deniss is passionate about making a social impact through employment and is a huge advocate of work placements and opportunities for people from all walks of life.

He is also a passionate sportsperson who enjoys competing around Europe and UK in paintball. Before lockdown, he was playing for teams from Ireland, Italy and the UK.

Deniss is a digitally-savvy professional with a strong understanding of B2B marketing principles and practices and is working as a digital marketing coordinator, guiding the brand identity, managing customer touchpoints and marketing activities at AAI.