Creative Equals brings back-to-work scheme to U.S.

The virtual, New York-based program, Creative Comeback, will target people who have been out of the workforce for more than 15 months.

There’s a saying in adland that you’re only as good as your last piece of work.

But what if that last piece of work was more than a year ago, due to childcare responsibilities, illness or otherwise?

Creative Equals, the UK-based nonprofit focused on diversity and inclusion in the ad industry, wants to turn the global stigma of career gaps in the creative industry into an advantage.

To do that, the nonprofit is bringing its CreativeComeback program, which retrains creatives who have been out of the workforce for more than 15 months and places them with potential job opportunities, to New York for the first time.

The free program, which was postponed from an in-person course in March this year, will run virtually from Jan. 25 to Feb. 4, 2021 for 30 participants across the U.S.

“The challenge we have here is ageism in the sector,” said Ali Hanan, CEO of Creative Equals. “When you leave the sector, even for one year, you're seen to be out of date. It's really difficult to get back into the role you had before.”

CreativeComeback is a two-week bootcamp that aims to destigmatize career gaps and turn them into an advantage. “CV gaps are creativity's gifts,” Hanan said. “You have incredible, rich life experience that can only add to creativity.”

Creative Equals partnered with U.K. advertising and design educational organization D&AD on a curriculum that gets participants back up to speed on what they’ve missed in the sector while providing hands-on interview and work experience to build up both their portfolios and their confidence.

This year’s program is sponsored by Diageo, which will provide a creative brief for participants to answer and pitch back to the group and client. Participants will be able to work with creative mentors, such as Kat Gordon from the 3% movement and JOAN founder and CCO Jamie Robinson, to develop their briefs.

They’ll also have support from mentors at gold sponsor agencies including FIG, 72andsunny, Oliver, Anomaly and Virtue.

The scheme gives participants a fresh piece of work in their portfolio that can sometimes even be adopted by the brand, Hanan said: “All of the brand directors have been so impressed with work coming out of the cohort.”

The CreativeComeback program has already been a success in the U.K., where it ran for the first time in 2019. Four out of five participants went on to get full-time jobs at agencies as a result of the program, some with partner agencies and some outside.

“It's a high-profile program so it's a good door opener,” Hanan added.

This is the first time the program will run virtually, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. If it’s successful, Creative Equals hopes to scale it to different regions around the world, including Mumbai and Australia.

“We're now working globally because of the pandemic, so our aim is to scale up globally over the next few years,” Hanan said.

Hanan sees an even greater need for such a program as a result of the pandemic, during which women, and especially women of color, have been disproportionately impacted by job losses. The program is open to people who have been out of work for more than 15 months, but focuses on underrepresented groups including women, BIPOC and people over 50.

“Our hunch is gender equality will go back at least a decade based on what's happening in the sector,” Hanan said. “But we know ageism happens to men as well.”

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