Brigid Simmonds is chairman of the Betting and Gaming Council. 

This week the Betting and Gaming Council unveiled our support for the Government’s Plan For Jobs, with our members pledging to employ 5,000 apprentices over the next five years.

They also committed to support the the Kickstart scheme for young people, which offers a six month working placement for 16 to 24-year-olds who are out of work, claiming Universal Credit, and at risk of long-term unemployment.

As part of this, I will be chairing a round table of our members next week to look at a range of topics, including training and how we share best practice, the use of the Apprenticeship Levy within the sector and, vitally, how we encourage diversity, particularly at senior levels of the workforce.

A recent EY report for the BGC found that our industry employs roughly a 50 per cent male/female split. We also know that 31 per cent of all our managers are female, rising to 41 per cent in betting shops.

Just as importantly, at a time of national unemployment for young people, 51 per cent of our employees are under the age of 35. So we clearly have a key role to play in offering new jobs, and a first step on the career ladder for many, as the UK recovers from the economic damage done by the pandemic.

Diversity in the workforce is an important issue for us all, whether it be to do with gender, disabilities, age, ethnicity or other forms of inclusion. I believe we have an excellent story to tell, but of course there is always more that can be done.

There have already been a number of projects in our sector. The Diversity and Inclusion for Career Enhancement (DICE) scheme in the casino industry, is an excellent example of the work being done in this field. It looks at recruitment policies, how advertisements are worded, particularly any conscious or unconscious bias, and also featured mentoring programmes which often linked female employees with male counterparts in different areas of the business.

As someone who has worked in a voluntary capacity in sport over many years and also been a mentor, I know how important initiatives like this can be. Often there is a real need to instil confidence in those who undoubtedly have the ability to do the job, but do not necessarily put themselves forward for promotion or a new role.

In 2018, BGC member Entain launched a three year international diversity and inclusion strategy – ‘Everyone’s in the Game’. Since then, the number of women at senior manager level has increased by 33 per cent. Elsewhere, Flutter is supporting FastFutures, a new skills programme in the UK that aims to help young, talented people from a range of backgrounds prepare for the world of work, while Sky Betting and Gaming launched its Inclusion Pledge setting out the leadership team’s commitment to inclusion and the role the wider team can play in achieving a more diverse and inclusive workplace.

Meanwhile, the ‘All in Diversity’ project is a not-for-profit organisation supported by a number of national and international companies who have undertaken work with Oxford Brookes University to bench-mark progress by individual companies against others in the betting and gaming sector.  Results so far show that senior leadership commitment and brand perception has a significant impact on levels of diversity, and that the majority of companies have an equal number of male and female employees overall.

Our members support 119,000 jobs across the UK, generate £4.5bn in tax for the Treasury and contribute £7.7bn to the economy in gross value added. Our support for the Government’s Plan For Jobs demonstrates our determination to do so into the future.

I firmly believe that promoting diversity – marrying warm words with positive action – is an essential component of that ambition, and I look forward to the BGC doing all it can to deliver on that pledge.