Industry-funded school challenges adland's diversity problem

Digital guru Ally Owen has founded Brixton Finishing School, a free, 12-week course in digital, advertising and marketing skills for young people from BAME/unrepresented backgrounds.

Owen has recruited 21 students, aged 18 to 25, who do not have the privilege of a university education and given them the opportunity to learn from the employees of companies such as Google, WPP and McCann London.

The Institute of Practitioners of Advertising revealed a significant lack of diversity in the industry in its latest annual survey on the subject. This inspired Owen tackle the issue by setting up the school with industry backing.

Owen said: "We believe that while talent is distributed equally among the youth of London, opportunities are not. 

"The SCA 2.0 [School of Communication Arts] and Brixton Finishing School partnership will create and widen runways into our industry to support our ambition for all talent, whatever their background, to have the seat they’ve earned at the table.

"For our GDP to thrive post-Brexit, we need to focus on building a meritocracy that ensures the best people are in the right jobs."

The students come a variety of backgrounds and range from school leavers to those who have already experienced the world of work.

Brixton Finishing School student Tremayne Bailey said he was not aware of the creative industries until he undertook an apprenticeship at a charity.

He said: "We target adults but what we need to be doing is actually starting young – teaching young people who still aren't being taught about the opportunities in the creative industries." 

The students will graduate on 5 October and many will then take up entry-level, digitally focused roles created for the school by Clear Channel, Kinetic, PrettyGreen, Brand Advance and McCann London.