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AAI EmployAbility Secures Funding to Help Minority Ethnic Women Get Back into the Workplace

Ross Kelly

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AAI EmployAbility

A new initiative is set to help minority ethnic women get back into the workplace following career breaks due to childcare or other commitments.

Led by social enterprise AAI EmployAbility, the ‘Back to Work’ programme is supported by the Scottish Government’s Women’s Returner Fund.

The initiative will have a dual focus of supporting underrepresented communities while empowering organisations to attract and retain a more diverse workforce.

A range of organisations spanning several industries will take part in the initiative, including Brewgooder OneBanks, Heartbox, Cutitronics, the RSPB and East Renfrewshire Council.

As part of the programme, six private sector companies will take on minority ethnic women for paid work placements.

Joy Lewis, CEO of AAI EmployAbility said: “While this is the fourth consecutive year in which we have run a diversity-focused project with the financial backing of the Scottish Government, you could argue that understanding diversity and taking steps to be truly inclusive has never been more important to our workforce.

“2020 saw the pandemic rage through societies worldwide, while issues of social justice and racism came to the fore in an extraordinary and urgent fashion.

“The aim of this project is to support both underrepresented, yet incredibly talented, women and our partner employers, giving them the tools that will improve employment prospects at the end of the journey.”

Industry research shows that more diverse workforces deliver significantly enhanced performance across a range of areas such as profitability. However, the employment rate in Scotland for minority ethnic women is 20% lower than for white women.

Similarly, minority ethnic women are also paid correspondingly less than their white counterparts.

Lewis added that while minority ethnic women have traditionally faced a multitude of barriers to employment, the coronavirus pandemic appears to have exacerbated the issue.

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Colin Hewitt, Founder and CEO of cash flow forecasting specialist Float, said: “We’re delighted to be working with AAI on their Back to Work project.

“This project is important to Float as we’ve become aware of the challenges in society for women who’ve had a career break, and how those barriers are amplified for many communities in Scotland. It’s fantastic to now be able to support initiatives like these and I’m looking forward to seeing Float continue to do more in the area of diversity and inclusion.”

Yvette McLaren, a participating women returner who has secured a paid four-week placement with Float, added: “I’ve been part of previous programmes for women returners, but have never felt they were properly tailored to my background or needs.

“My confidence has skyrocketed from attending these online events, getting one-to-one support from AAI, and particularly from the opportunity to interact with potential employers.

“I’ve lived in Edinburgh since 1991 and it’s reassuring to know there are businesses here really trying to take diversity seriously.”

Ross Kelly

Staff Writer

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