Preparing minority youth for careers in the media industry

  • The Emma L. Bowen Foundation offers a multi-year undergraduate internship programme focused on minority students with strong academic and leadership skills. Students usually apply before high school graduation and if accepted are part of the programme for their entire college career.
  • The internship programme provides diverse youth with training resources for employment readiness – including striving for excellence, assessing corporate culture and corporate politics, group dynamics, managing up, networking, selecting mentors and maximizing their internship experience. 
  • The programme provides periodic group events, including annual summer conferences, awards recognizing scholarship and community service, career fairs and a formal mentoring programme.
  • Students in the programme receive an hourly wage, as well as matching compensation to help pay for college tuition and expenses.
  • The programme helps to build company and industry loyalty for full-time hires and provides cross training for growth, with rotations in a wide range of jobs and roles.
The problem addressed by the campaign: 
  • The main issue the foundation was created to address was the lack of diversity in the media industry. The vision of the founder was to help promote more positive portrayals of minorities in society by encouraging more diversity in the media workforce itself. Other issues included the limited growth potential for minorities without experience, mentors and networking.
  • There is also a mobility issue in the US labour market: opportunities and diverse populations do not always match.  In media, new entrants tend to start in smaller markets.
  • Significant resources are required to attend good schools and many minority students are unable to accept unpaid internships.  The Foundation’s programme offers the opportunity for work experience and financial assistance for college expenses.   
  • The Emma L. Bowen Foundation recruits locally, trains in hard and soft skills, provides mentoring and networking opportunities and cross training to ensure exposure to the full range of jobs and experience available in the sector.
  • There is hands-on participation of and collaboration between leaders from media companies. The Foundation’s Board of Directors represents 42 media companies.
  • Ongoing support is given to students while they are in the programme and following graduation.  Measuring results, whether tracking students’ grades or work performance scores or tracking the career progress of graduates, is a key element of the programme. 
  • A key indicator of the programme’s impact is that the media industry (e.g., broadcast and cable television) consistently supports the programme and has maintained support in spite of the downturn in the economy.
  • There are strong positive reviews and endorsements from industry collaborators on the value of the programme.
  • There is a clear benefit to industry sponsors that develop a pipeline of diverse talent that are highly motivated, company- trained and ready for full-time employment after graduation. 
  • Other key indicators of the impact are the successful careers of the programme graduates.
Why has it worked?: 
  • The programme has worked mainly because of strong and unwavering industry support. There is also collaboration among industry leaders (CEOs & C-Suite) through a large and active Board of Directors. Investment and commitments from companies provide the necessary funds and network of opportunities. Top-down support is also important; it pays to have high-level executive sponsors who can make things happen.
  • The hands-on, personalized commitment of staff and other stakeholders ensures positive outcomes.
  • The ongoing assessment and follow-up on academic and work performance of programme participants maintains the standards that impact successful outcomes.
  • A valuable network is maintained by the ongoing tracking of the graduates’ career progress. Programme graduates return as mentors and panellists and create a valuable network to support new participants.
  • Demand also drives the success of the programme. There is a recognized need for diverse talent.
  • Regulatory oversight adds incentives - active affiliation with the Foundation helps establish company commitment to diversity with regulatory bodies.
Conclusions and Recommendations: 
  • Multi-year, paid internships are the key to making this work. Interns have visibility with senior executives and return each summer to build on the prior year’s successes.  These successes help to build confidence for the student and inspire mentoring relationships essential for future success. 
  • Establish paid internships to encourage minority participation.  Summer employment is needed to cover tuition and other expenses for many minority students.
  • Cross-train because early exposure to the full range of possibilities is important to create enduring career aspirations. Many students have no idea of how many different kinds of jobs exist in the sector. At their best, internships open new vistas for students. This is perhaps the most important aspect of the programme.
  • Internship programmes must be committed to excellence and success. Establish early on that the internship is not a free ride but an opportunity to learn, work hard and launch a successful career. Companies should treat similar initiatives as a talent pipeline, rather than a community outreach programme.
  • A strong involvement of industry leaders and corporate partners will allow the cycle to continue identifying interested youth, developing professionals and successful career-minded leaders.
Foundational Issues: 
Widespread unemployability
Level of Collaboration: 
Level 2: Collaboration across organizations within a country
North America
Economic and political context: 
  • The partner company and Foundation staff work together to select local high schools from which to recruit students. Foundation staff discuss the programme with principals and guidance counsellors and request assistance with student recruitment. Student application forms are provided for qualified candidates. Students with a GPA of 3.0 or better are eligible. Student applications, teacher recommendations and academic records are reviewed by Foundation staff and forwarded to the partner company. The partner company makes the ultimate selection.
  • The partner company pays each student an hourly wage for hours worked and provides matching funds for tuition and other college expenses. Typically, if a student works 8 to 10 weeks in the summer, the cost for wages would be approximately US$ 2,500 plus a matching contribution of US$ 2,500. In addition, the partner company pays an annual contribution of US$ 10,000 per year to the Foundation with no limitation on the number of students they sponsor.
About the Author(s): 
  • The Emma L. Bowen Foundation was created in 1989 to prepare minority youth for careers in the media industry. Through multi-year internships with partner companies, students have an opportunity to learn many aspects of corporate operations and develop company-specific skills. Corporations have an opportunity to train and mentor students with the option of fulltime employment upon completion of their college degrees.
  • The programme prepares a diverse group of talented young professionals to enter the workforce with specific job-related skills, knowledge of the corporate environment and a strong foundation for future advancement.
  • The foundation is funded through financial and in-kind donations of its corporate partners, philanthropic and corporate foundation grants, and individual donations.