Last week Simon Wright collected the 2012 Creative Diversity Network Award on behalf of the Vision Intake Pool (VIP). The award for Best Diversity Initiative is an acknowledgement of the commitment and reputation that Vision has built over the last few years to diversifying its workforce.

Helena Gardner, Simon Wright, Jo Hatley at the Creative Diversity Awards

Diversity is not just a box to be ticked at the BBC. It’s important for a number of reasons; it improves the creative process because it brings in new ideas and new ways of looking at the world, it brings new skills and experiences, and it means we better reflect the diversity of our audience. We believe that this enables us to make better programmes that will be loved by more people.

The VIP scheme significantly impacted on the way Vision, the BBC’s television production department, has found and recruited entry level staff. Finding a way into the media has not always been straightforward; it was either exploiting your contacts or having the support that enabled you to do work experience for long periods for no money. The VIP was a significant change to that. It ran like a ‘temp desk’, finding, recruiting and training entry level staff and offering them paid short term contracts in line with the business’s needs. This has given many young people that crucial foot in the door to working at the BBC, independent production companies and other broadcasters. This success is reflected in the figures; of the people recruited into the pool in 2010, more than 75% are still working in the industry and more than a quarter of them are from a Black or Minority Ethnic background.

It has made a significant impact on people’s lives too. Tolula Dada was one of the 2010 intake: “I never would’ve been able to afford to work unpaid in London to get the necessary experience to begin my TV career and am massively appreciative for the great start in TV that that VIP scheme gave me. Two and a half years after starting as a VIP scheme Production Assistant, I’m now a story researcher on Eastenders.”

In 2012 Simon Wright joined the BBC Academy and the VIP became the Production Talent Pool (PTP). The BBC Academy has a long history of building diversity across the BBC; last year the Journalism Trainee Scheme, run by Claire Prosser, won the CDN Best Diversity Initiative. The creation of the PTP means successful candidates are now offered opportunities across the whole of the organisation, including BBC Scotland and Wales, Audio & Music, as well as TV. The PTP is also the entry point for the Production Training Scheme the prestigious 12-month training programme for the creative leaders of the future and this year’s 11 trainees are the most diverse ever in terms of their age, gender, ethnic background and social class.

The PTP will be open for its 2013 intake in late February and you can find out more at the Production Talent Pool website.

Simon Smith is Manager, Creativity and Special Projects for College of Production, BBC Academy

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