Black, Asian and Ethnic Minorities (BAME) made up 8 percent of the total UK population in 2001. However, according to projections from statisticians at Leeds University, this figure is set to rise to 20 percent by the year 2051. By that time one in five of the UK population of 77 million will come from a minority background. Yet, though we may live and work in a diverse society, there is strong evidence to suggest that training opportunities are not made available equally to women, especially older women, and people from Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority backgrounds.

Research into the career progression of UK employees undertaken by Race for Opportunity in 2011, which looked specifically at the alarmingly variable rates of career progression between white individuals and BAME representatives, revealed the training and mentoring programmes are far more accessible to the former, but not the latter. This was particularly noticeable at lower and middle management level, where minorities were significantly under-represented. Race for Opportunity is now calling for diversity to be reflected across all sectors and at all levels of the business community. For any significant changes to be made, organisations need to ensure that BAME individuals in the lower and middle levels of businesses have the skills, training and mentoring support to progress and achieve their ambitions.

Race for Opportunity understands that lower and middle level managers predominantly focus on targets and how their teams meet these targets. What the organisation is suggesting is that these managers should also be looking at the broader picture, and focusing more on the aspirations and motivations of the individuals within these teams. It believes many, who currently consider themselves good line managers, may be surprised and challenged by some of the feedback they receive. The aspirations and ambitions of the BAME workforce are no different to those of white employees, yet nearly half of BAME employees felt they had no other choice but to leave their current employment if they were ever going to progress up the career ladder. Many reasons for this were suggested, but the critical factors appeared to be that a high percentage felt they lacked support form their line managers and that they were offered fewer training opportunities and access to mentoring schemes.

The research also looked in general at what employees want from their employers. Surprisingly, it was found that gender, race, religion, location and ethnicity played no part in the equation. Employee demands are quite simple: to feel valued, to receive appropriate and adequate training and mentoring, and to take home a proper level of pay. None of these demands are excessive, but most are easy to deliver and could make a substantial difference to all the members of the workforce.

Race for Opportunity is in effect asking all managers when considering their training budgets and mentoring programmes for2012, to do two simple things. To be brave enough to challenge any unconscious bias and preconceptions within themselves and their organisations, and also to look across their organisation’s structures as a whole, and establish whether BAME individuals are equally represented at all levels and on existing training or mentoring schemes. Otherwise it fears that businesses risk losing a motivated and knowledgeable tranche of the workforce. Increase training and mentoring opportunities are essential for the retention of top talent.

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This article about career mentoring was submitted by Tom Berzins on behalf of Mentor Match Me