A university scholarship initiative has been launched to encourage people from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds into the events industry.

The REACH (Race Ethnicity And Cultural Heritage) Events Scholarship initiative has been launched by an events industry task force to give students wanting to study an events management degree with access to a £5,000 a year scholarship to support with living expenses.

The aim is for the first scholarships to be available for students on Manchester Metropolitan University’s BA (Hons) Events Management degree programme in September 2022. The scholarships would support more Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic students onto the course and ultimately into the events industry.

The scholarship initiative has been launched by an industry task force led by Robert Kenward, Event First Steps, and Diversity Ally. Some companies have already stepped forward and pledged to donate to the fund. These include DRPG, The Hub and TRO. The task force is now calling on more events industry companies to support the initiative.

Robert Kenward (pictured), founder of The Hub, said: “Only 3.5 per cent of our industry is from a Black or Minority Ethnic background, whilst six per cent is from an Asian background, and although I have been a recruiter and events professional for more than 21 years, I can count on two hands the number of Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic event people I have worked with and on one hand at a senior level. The initiative was created because I wanted to take action and actually achieve something that would have a lasting and tangible impact on our industry. The pandemic has already meant we have lost many event professionals who now see our industry as just too risky, so we need to act now to ensure that working in events is an attractive and accessible proposition for all young people. We are calling for companies to get on board and pledge £5,000 a year for three years. We need to have the funds in place by March 2022 so that Manchester Met can award students looking to start their courses in September 2022.”

Kenward added: “We have launched this with Manchester Met but we will be rolling the REACH Scholarship out to other universities too in the future.”

Gabby Austen-Browne, co-founder of Diversity Ally, a diversity consultancy, training and events organisation, said: “It’s no secret I’m incredibly passionate about diversity and inclusion in events. My mission when I founded Diversity Ally was to help the industry become more diverse, inclusive and accessible. To change the industry for the next generation of event professionals, leaving a legacy of equality for all. The REACH scholarship initiative will help make the events industry more accessible to Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic talent who might not normally have access to enter our sector, directly addressing the issue of the event industry talent pipeline. I’m so excited and very proud to be part of this initiative!”

Priya Narain, co-founder/director of Event First Steps, a non-for-profit initiative encouraging events industry newcomers to forge their own career path, said: “Our core focus has always been about the next generation of event professionals entering the industry and ensuring that our pillars of access and route to the industry as well as the diversity of the industry are always at the forefront. The REACH scholarship is the perfect opportunity to practice what we preach and help create a more diverse industry from the grassroot level.”

Jonathan Sibley, senior lecturer in Events Management at Manchester Metropolitan University, said: “We are excited to be the first university to be in the position to establish the new REACH Events Scholarship. The provision of this opportunity adds to existing scholarships, within the university, that seek to improve diversity within the creative industries; further emphasising our commitment to enhancing diversity within the events industry as well as seeking to deliver a high-quality education experience that effectively prepares future event professionals.”

Companies that are interested in making a positive and long-term impact to D&I in the industry can contact Gabby Austen-Browne or Robert Kenward for more information.