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Funding deal helps ethnic women into work

Joy Lewis, left and Yvette McLaren

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

‘Back to Work’, a Scottish Government-funded programme, is aimed at improving employment prospects, updating skills, increasing confidence, while offering access to both employers and paid work placements. 

Between November 2021 and March 2022, programme participants can use employability coaches and employers through interactive workshops, one-to-one coaching and tailored training resources.

AAI Employability is now in its fifth year of working with what it sees as an underrepresented demographic which experiences 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. 

Joy Lewis, CEO, 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.” 

Since 2010, AAI EmployAbility has worked with more than 1,700 people, over 1,100 businesses, and has a 97% success rate on job placements.  

It rebranded in 2019 from Adopt an Intern to reflect its wider work in inclusive recruitment, diversity training and social impact projects.  Its core Diversity Works initiative builds on the experience of five employment projects to support people of minority ethnic backgrounds in Scotland. 

Yvette McLaren, who participated in AAI EmployAbility’s previous Back to Work programme and secured a six-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.”

While industry research shows that more diverse workforces deliver significantly greater performance, 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. 

Enoch Adeyemi, CEO 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.” 

AAI’s Back to Work programme is now accepting participants from across Scotland. 

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