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Fresh Funding to Help Minority Ethnic Women Return to Work

Ross Kelly

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AAI EmployAbility
The Scottish Government-backed scheme helps improve employment opportunities and access to placements.

Social enterprise AAI EmployAbility has secured funding to expand a programme which helps minority ethnic women in Scotland return to work after career breaks.

The Scottish Government-funded ‘Back to Work’ scheme seeks to improve employment prospects, update skills and increase confidence while offering access to employers and paid work placements.

As part of the programme, which runs from November 2021 to March 2022, AAI EmployAbility plans to support more than 60 minority ethnic women.

Participants will be given access to employability coaches and employers through interactive workshops, one-to-one coaching and tailored training resources.

AAI EmployAbility is now in its fifth year of improving employment opportunities for this underrepresented group, which often faces significant barriers to employment.

Despite the challenges posed to minority ethnic women, however, CEO Joy Lewis said the social enterprise is “consistently blown away by the level of talent” showcased by the scheme.

“Last year, we supported thirty women to realise their potential, regain their confidence and break the stigma around taking career breaks,” she said. “We’ve seen the impact this work can make, so we want to double the number of women we are supporting.”


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Industry research shows that more diverse workforces deliver significantly greater performance. However, the employment rate in Scotland for minority ethnic women is 20% lower than for white women.

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

Enoch Adeyemi, CEO and Co-founder of Black Professionals Scotland, said projects such as the Back to Work scheme offer crucial support for people from underrepresented backgrounds.

“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,” he said.

“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,” Adeyemi added. “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.”

Yvette McLaren, who participated in AAI EmployAbility’s previous Back to Work programme, secured a six-week placement with Edinburgh startup Float. She described the experience as an “incredible” confidence builder.

“The whole experience was incredible because it built my confidence and it felt like I wasn’t in things alone,” she commented.

“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.”

Ross Kelly

Staff Writer

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