Initiative supports underrepresented communities while empowering organisations to improve their recruitment procedures.

Published in Scottish Business Insider, 19 Oct 2021

A Scottish social enterprise has secured funding to help minority ethnic women in Scotland get back to work after career breaks.

AAI EmployAbility will run a programme between November 2021 and March 2022 to let participants utilise employability coaches and employers through interactive workshops, one-to-one coaching, tailored training resources and offering access to employers and paid work placements.

AAI CEO Joy Lewis and project participant Yvette McLaren

Back to Work is a funded Scottish Government programme aimed at improving employment opportunities. The funding will come from the government’s Women’s Returner Fund, with the dual focus of supporting an underrepresented community while empowering organisations to improve their recruitment procedures so they can attract and retain a more diverse workforce.

AAI Employability is now in its fifth year of working with what is a widely underrepresented demographic who experience multiple barriers to employment.

Organisations participating in the programme are from the public, private and social enterprise sectors, ranging from large corporations to SMEs and startups.

Industry research shows that more diverse workforces deliver significantly greater performance.

Research found that the employment rate in Scotland for minority ethnic women is 20% lower than for white women, while minority ethnic women are also paid correspondingly less than their white counterparts.

Joy Lewis, chief executive at AAI EmployAbility said:

“Our team is consistently blown away by the level of talent that comes through from this underrepresented group. Last year we supported thirty women to realise their potential, regain their confidence and break the stigma around taking career breaks. We’ve seen the impact this work can make, so we want to double the number of women we are supporting.”

Yvette McLaren, who participated in AAI EmployAbility’s previous Back to Work programme and secured a 6-week placement with Edinburgh-headquartered cashflow forecasting startup Float, said:

“The whole experience was incredible because it built my confidence and it felt like I wasn’t in things alone.  Before the programme and placement, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go back to work in HR, but the experience reminded me how much I loved working with people.”

Enoch Adeyemi, chief executive and co-founder of Black Professionals Scotland, said:

“The last eighteen months have been especially hard for the black community in Scotland, and Covid has affected us disproportionately with more of us now unemployed. Whether it is the racial abuse of black footballers or having to continually talk about racism, it has densely put a toll on our collective wellbeing. Projects like this from AAI, and the backing from the Scottish Government, offer hope and crucially, access points to employment desperately needed for people from underrepresented backgrounds so they can achieve their potential in the workforce.”

Since 2010, AAI EmployAbility has worked with more than 1,700 people and more than 1,100 businesses.

AAI EmployAbility rebranded in 2019 (from Adopt an Intern) to reflect its wider work in inclusive recruitment, diversity training and social impact projects.

Find out more about AAI’s Back to Work programme in the clip below!