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The role of higher education work placements in cultivating a diverse workforce: key challenges and opportunities Presenters: Dr Kim Allen and Sumi Hollingworth.

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Presentation on theme: "The role of higher education work placements in cultivating a diverse workforce: key challenges and opportunities Presenters: Dr Kim Allen and Sumi Hollingworth."— Presentation transcript:

1 The role of higher education work placements in cultivating a diverse workforce: key challenges and opportunities Presenters: Dr Kim Allen and Sumi Hollingworth The Institute for Policy Studies in Education (IPSE), London Metropolitan University Research for the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU)

2 Presentation outline Introduction to the project –Research context, aims and methodology Overview of key findings and equality issues Discussion

3 Research context –Predominantly white, middle class, and in some sectors, male. Under-representation of disabled workers. –Mounting attention to breaking down the barriers to entry for certain groups. –Diversity as key driver for ‘culturing growth’ (Hutton et al, 2007; DCMS 2008). Social justice and economic imperative: “If you’re interested in creativity – as everyone in the creative industries should be – then diversity matters. It matters not just for fairness, but for productivity. In a digital world, broadcasters ignore diversity at their peril ”. (Andy Duncan, C4 CEO) –HE and work placements have a role to play in this diversity agenda.

4 Research aims To explore how HEI’s support students from equality groups into positive and inclusive work placement experiences which will enhance their future employment prospects in the arts and cultural sector. Develop practical resources for use by careers and placement staff in HE to facilitate inclusive work placement processes.

5 Definitions Equality groups:  Disabled Students  Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) students  Students seeking to work in areas where there are significant gender imbalances.  also working class students Work placements (WP): Loose definition includes: extrinsic placements in student’s own time; and those taken as part of a programme of study, i.e. ‘sandwich’ years and shorter term placements. Arts and cultural sector: DCMS (2001): Architecture; Art and antiques markets; Computer and video games; Crafts; Design; Designer fashion; Film and video; Music; Performing arts; Television and radio. Plus creative roles outside main sub-sectors

6 Methodology Case studies of 5 HEIs in England and Wales (specialist and non-specialist, large and small HEIs) Interviews with: –key careers or placement staff in each HEI –Total of 26 students from equality groups who had undertaken work placements 11 Employer interviews across the sector, including SMEs and large organisations

7 Key Findings and Equality Themes

8 Being ‘driven’, selling yourself and accessing networks

9 WPs encouraged / expected but not always supported “They suggest that you do get work experience...You have to make contact and you have to get out there but it’s not necessarily compulsory. It’s just a strong suggestion. You won't fail the course if you don't but you probably will fail your career if you don't”. (Ed, BME, male, middle class) Ideal student as enterprising, driven & confident “It’s our philosophy that if we give them something now they won’t know what to do when there isn’t anybody to give it to them later so we’d much prefer to make them understand why it’s important and to teach them the skills they need to get it”. (Placement tutor) “You have to drive your career… I have taken control of my own career path in that way and so the fact that my placement wasn't organised for me...could only be an advantage really”. (Lisa, disabled, female, middle class)

10 “There are some sectors, like the sector that I want to go into, fashion, it’s more about who you know than how good you are. Whether you know someone who’s in that sector. It’s very undermining”. (Nikki, female, white working class) “There's favourites, and certain tutors did help certain students more than others... a lot of students that didn’t get that extra help, tutors recommended people [for placements]... I don’t know whether it’s because the favourites speak the same way they do or from the same region that they're from”. (Carlo, BME, Disabled)

11 Economic Barriers: Negotiating the culture of unpaid work placements

12 Unpaid work seen as “normal” or “industry standard” “To be honest I don’t expect to get paid in work experience. It is just the way it is”. (Nikki, female, white working class) Staff struggled to challenge unpaid placements “We go along to the national minimum wage council guidelines [but] I don’t know what happens in reality and we slightly turn a blind eye to it. It’s a really tricky one. I think it’s wrong and I’d quite like to do something to change that but I don’t want to sacrifice this cohort of graduates... We could say to employers “we won’t post your vacancy unless you pay” but we’d lose lots of vacancies”. (Careers service manager) Some staff questioned who should pay “I think students gain far more than a company gains...You could argue that the students should be paying the company for the experience in some ways... it’s a very altruistic and to have somebody in your studio has all kinds of risks attached to it”. (Academic staff)

13 Students self-select based on financial situation “ I only did one placement. Other people did additional stuff but they were having a lot of funding from their parents... They did not work the whole time they were at uni [so] they could do [placements] in their spare time… [But for me] it was a struggle...I was working part time in a bar [so] I couldn’t afford to go and do six weeks unpaid”. (Mel, Female, white working class) But some can exploit this to demonstrate ‘drive’ “It wasn't paid. I think it just shows a bit of commitment really”. (Jane, BME, female) Hierarchy of placements “We say to the students that they shouldn’t be putting themselves into lots of debt to do a placement. It’s quite a difficult... some of them want to go and work for Vivienne Westwood or whatever and they were happy to pay whatever it costs just to be there and get it on their CVs”. (Placement tutor)

14 Gender and the Creative Workplace

15 Stereotypes around women and technical work “ I did get a few comments when I told teachers that I looked after all this equipment and they kind of looked at me and they’re like ‘you do that?’ and I was like ‘yeah’. I think its because they feel that media, broadcasting and TV is a male orientated field”. (Mya, Asian, Female) Gendered work practices and cultures – negotiating ‘macho culture’ “There is a little bit of you know, that inner ‘ah you’re trying to play on a boy’s playground, then you’re going to play hard’’...[to succeed] you do have to turn on alpha male behaviour....I think that you have to work really hard and the behaviour has to be sort of male”. (Alena, female, international, middle class)

16 Disability and Disclosure

17 Fear of disclosure and being judged “ It’s scary...I don't want to make them think I'm stupid but I don't work like everybody else...I’m worried that I will get penalised because I work differently or think differently or do things differently”. (Clare, white working class, dyslexic) Self-selection of placements - employers’ capacity to make adjustments (e.g. SMEs) - choosing familiar organisations “I think that was one of the reasons why I chose that particular place to approach because it’s local and they know I have got a disability because I had known them for a while and I had done workshops down there. And so…they know what I can do and how far I can go”. (Joan, female, mature student, osteoarthritis )

18 “I always kind of felt a little out [of] place... with the web design placement I didn’t see or feel any discrimination, I just noticed that it was this big white building and this big white box and these big white tables and big white computer....and [the people who worked there] were white”. (Faheem, working class Asian male) “There were women on the make up department and wardrobe but with the technical crew was all middle aged men...Then there was like little 19 year old me and I certainly was a fish out of water”. (Polly, white working class, female in male-dominated sector) “I didn’t really enjoy it... the feelings I got from people didn’t settle me....You feel that you’re lower than them. Oh God like it’s funny, the [agency director’s] mum used to phone every lunchtime, “is Rupert there?”. It was those kinds of names. It was even the way they talked. You know like really ‘proper’... it just throws you off a little bit. It’s [like] you’ve not got enough money and the [people you work with] have a totally different lifestyle”. (Mel, female, white working class) Conclusion: Who fits?

19 Discussion “If you’re interested in creativity – as everyone in the creative industries should be – then diversity matters. It matters not just for fairness, but for productivity. In a digital world, broadcasters ignore diversity at their peril”. (Andy Duncan, C4 CEO) “In Elle or Vogue its run by upper middle class girls… who live in Notting Hill and daddy pays rent...that’s why a lot of industry looks like what it does, because people who work there, work there for free”. (Alena, female, international, middle class) How do higher education work placements contribute to diversity issues in the creative sector? How might your HEI’s equality and diversity work feed more effectively into work placement policies and practices? What can employers do to foster diversity in the creative workforce?

20 The full report from this project are published online, along with two practical toolkits aimed at staff and students to help them identify and address equality issues in work placements. These can be found online at: Or add your name and to the list and we will arrange for the ECU to send a copy of these to you. Further information

21 Project team Dr. Kim Allen Prof. Jocey Quinn Sumi Hollingworth Dr. Anthea Rose Contact:


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