That is a good question. I am glad that you picked up on that point.
To come back to Jeremy Balfour’s question about which of its predecessor committee’s recommendations the committee should push hardest on, the report recommended that
“the Scottish Government reflects on the links between disability, poverty and ethnicity”.
That seems to be high on the agenda when the discussion takes place, but then the focus on it seems to dwindle. Another area that needs further focus is how ethnic minority employers participate in the recruitment side.
Modern apprenticeships are relevant to your question. Historically, we thrived on the idea that ethnic minority communities are underrepresented in modern apprenticeships because there is discrimination. We were always led to believe that young ethnic minority people were not interested in apprenticeships or that their parents did not care about apprenticeships. We have worked on the issue for the past 18 months. Through the project, we have witnessed a dramatic increase in ethnic minority parents pushing for their children to pursue a career option through a modern apprenticeship. The young people have moved beyond viewing a modern apprenticeship as being at the lower end of their aspirations or expectations. Those details must be acknowledged.
How did that happen? Did it happen just by imposing policy and stuff on SDS? No—it happened as a result of our collaboration not just with SDS but with the training providers. The training providers have a responsibility and a duty, but they do not have the knowledge or the expertise, while the minorities do not have the confidence to engage with them in that context. Through linking the training providers, the employers, the communities and stakeholders such as us, an impact has been achieved, which is now filtering down. If the MA programme were judged on the basis of the progress that has been made from last year to now, we would do it an injustice. Now that we have established the infrastructure, we can understand the impact. Once there is an awareness among the minorities of the impact, the parents push.
On the day that I mentioned, 400 ethnic minority young people came to pursue aspects of modern apprenticeships at the level of their expectations. How did that happen? It happened by creating a cultural shift. Our organisation and all the communities that we work with are fed up with the culture of being viewed as just the disadvantaged—the poor souls—and with the culture of grievances against the employer. Equally, we cannot say that the responsibility to progress race equality is just the responsibility of BEMIS, CRER, CEMVO, the equality unit or SDS; it is the responsibility of all of us collectively. That is when the co-operation and collaboration happen. I agree that that does not happen smoothly all the time. There are a lot of differences in strategic thinking, but now we have a responsibility for Scotland. This is not about our organisations or us as individuals; it is about what we can change for Scotland.
The communities in the sector—let us please move beyond the perception of ethnicity as involving one or two groups, because there is a diversity of ethnic minorities—have a positive approach. That is evident in the multicultural programme that we deliver every year, whereby those groups participate in all national events in Scotland. We created a cultural shift to enable them to understand that they are part of Scotland and that those celebrations are for them. We now see them leading on things themselves.
I would like to say a bit about how we create cultural shift. In the past, we had a project that was about addressing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender ethnic minority needs within the equality framework. We initiated that because the LGBT people would say, “Race? It’s nothing to do with us,” and the race people would say, “LGBT—wow! Nobody talks about it.” We were brave to initiate a project with the Equality Network. When we started it—trust me—we were abused left, right and centre by various stakeholders. One year down the line, the same stakeholders have signed up to providing equality support for everybody through the infrastructure networks.
Now we have more and more ethnic minority LGBT people who are open, reaching out for their rights and participating in all aspects. Similarly, the other stakeholders are equally open to providing the equality support for them.
That is what we mean by a culture shift. We are not changing the world; we are creating a culture shift where minority equality is not only for race—it is for everybody. We should understand that the way in which that applies here also applies there.
In the employment setting, what we are witnessing with the youth, the training provider approach, SDS and the parents is something that we have to develop and report on. We are happy to share that with you, because it is not fair for the Government just to assign targets to a public body to achieve. In the process of getting to a target, we find out about gaps and opportunities that nobody has addressed before. Rather than being judged by targets, we need to reflect on the findings to develop more and better strategic recommendations.