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Joy Lewis reflects on AAI’s journey as inclusive recruitment specialists after 11 years.

This week, as AAI reveals its sparkling new-look website, it’s prompted me to reflect on the company’s journey over the past 11 years. In 2009, I set up Adopt an Intern, as it was known then, as a passion project within a think tank (The Centre for Scottish Public Policy). After the economic crash, graduates were throwing themselves at us to work for free but this didn’t sit well with me. I kept thinking of all the graduates out there who couldn’t afford to work without pay, who couldn’t rely on the Bank of Mum and Dad or industry connections, and what that meant for their career prospects. 

I started placing graduates into paid internships with the think tank’s members and secured funding from the Scottish Government before spinning out AAI into a stand-alone social enterprise in 2012.

Unpaid internships were the first employment injustice we tackled, but as the company grew, and we attracted the attention of more and more employers and spoke with more jobseekers from all walks of life, we found more injustice and inequality. This created more opportunity for our small team to positively disrupt the recruitment market by breaking down barriers to employment.

Fast forward to today and unpaid internships in the UK are widely demonised and a rarity in most sectors, with a notable few still waiting to be hung out to dry! AAI has evolved into a multi-award-winning social enterprise and has supported over 1700 people into paid work and over 1100 businesses to recruit from a truly diverse audience.

Nonetheless, there are still many barriers placed in front of graduates, young professionals, women returners and other underrepresented groups which stop them accessing career opportunities. This is where the AAI team now focuses the socially-driven side of its work, looking at diversity, disability, race and gender diversity in recruitment practices and in the workforce. 

Our new-look website represents our growth as inclusive recruitment specialists and as a team of people who love to work with employers to reach talent and create genuine opportunities (we’re not on commission!). Our rebrand to ‘AAI EmployAbility’ in late 2019, acknowledged our broadening focus away from just graduate internships and into wider recruitment activity, supporting businesses to hire talent into permanent roles up to £40k.

Over the years, we’ve worked with businesses of all sizes who were looking for a different approach to ‘traditional’ recruitment. They tell us they enjoy the consultation, how we engage candidates, represent jobs and, essentially, how we approach the work with our values. 

This new website also showcases other services that fall under the AAI EmployAbility banner.

  • Acting as a Kickstart Gateway organisation. This UK Government employment initiative creates six-month work placements for young jobseekers on Universal Credit, and AAI has submitted applications for 600+ placements on behalf of over 200 employers to date. In addition, the wrap-around employability training AAI is offering to employers with approved placements ensures the young people leave their role with the tools to flourish in their next opportunity.

So, if you’ve not seen what AAI has been up to in a while, I invite you to have a look around the website. See why 1100+ businesses have hired with us, the social impact projects we’ve been doing with the Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise, the events we’ve supported for other organisations, and get a flavour of the training and workshops we’ve done for businesses across the UK.

Joy Lewis
AAI EmployAbility


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