Race Equality Awards 2016 - Future Workforce - Sheffield Hallam University

Sheffield Hallam University working with Health Education England 
BAME representation in paramedic careers (a collaboration between Sheffield Hallam University, East Midlands Ambulance Service, Health Education England and Northampton University).





The East Midlands has a particularly diverse community, with a varied distribution of its Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) population in large urban centres. However, in 2015, the East Midlands Ambulance Service estimated that only 3.5% of its workforce has a BAME background. As Sheffield Hallam University allocates clinical placements within the East Midlands Ambulance Service, it is directly responsible for ensuring the sustainability and suitability of this future workforce.

To address this, a collaborative project between Sheffield Hallam University, East Midlands Ambulance Service, Health Education England and Northampton University was established with the aim of increasing awareness of paramedicine as a career among BAME communities, and increase the representation of BAME students on paramedic programmes. The project is part of a national focus on paramedic education commissioned by Health Education England.

In order for the workforce to better reflect the region it serves, the project aims to increase BAME applications and enrolments by 10% for the 2016 cycle. The long-term aim is that increasing awareness of paramedicine as a career within BAME communities should continue to yield further benefits in future years. 

While 14% of the UK population is identified as BAME, 7.4% of paramedics are from BAME groups, and nationally just 3.4% of those currently studying to become a paramedic are from a BAME background. With these statistics in mind, the aim of the project was to understand the reasoning behind the low participation of BAME students on paramedic courses and then engage in a positive action to address this challenge. Through utilising expertise across the sector, a goal was set to increase applications from BAME students by 10% for the 2016 intake.

It was agreed that immediate efforts would be concentrated on targeting outreach to raise awareness of the profession and promote positive role models to ensure a sustainable recruitment process. 

A crucial part of the activities was finding BAME role models to engage with the local BAME communities and promote the course, profession and provide insight. Engaging with these role models has been a challenge for the project as the proportion of BAME students on the paramedic course at Sheffield Hallam University is small, compounded by an intense university schedule and clinical placement requirement. To overcome this barrier, the project team established strong links with academics to encourage participation, ensured their ‘asks’ of student time were as flexible as possible and added participating students to payroll as an additional incentive. 

Outreach and recruitment activities were targeted specifically within the East Midlands region and have included attendance at local community faith celebrations and at school and college dedicated career events days. During all of these activities role models were present. 

Alongside raising the profile of paramedicine to potential BAME applicants the project sought to remove bias at the application stage, whilst also reducing barriers to students during their journey throughout the application process. Activity to date has included developing an equality analysis of the admissions process and unconscious bias training for all staff. Findings from the analysis will inform further work in this area, in paramedicine and across the university.

This is a new initiative and therefore still in its infancy. It is the first of its kind for Sheffield Hallam University so each step of the project has been intensely scrutinised to ensure positive action and implementation is achieved. 

Initial research found that images which portray the paramedic profession were not as ethnically inclusive as other health professions. To address this, imagery has been created to better reflect the diverse regional community. Through the creation of images and film, BAME case studies have been captured and profiled to provide positive role models for BAME prospective students who want to pursue paramedicine as a career, and to be used in engagement with local BAME communities. The case studies touch on issues around race and religious barriers, moving away from home, changing careers and give a realistic overview of the paramedic course and profession.

In addition, drawing on best practice from other Sheffield Hallam University participation projects, processes are being developed to identify and support BAME paramedic students during the application stage. BAME students who may have initially been unsuccessful will be offered specialist sessions that support application writing, interview techniques and the opportunity to speak to current students and staff.

The project will continue to develop, but the project team believes it has already encouraged people's perceptions across the university and sector to change. A commitment to inclusive and positive action is now at the forefront of decisions and anecdotally the current paramedic staff, students and role models feel proud to be involved in the initiative.