The launch of a new apprenticeship scheme by the London Evening Standard and Independent newspapers at UCFB will send a message to readers that journalism is open to all based on merit, according to Lieutenant of Greater London.

The appointment of four editorial apprentices from diverse backgrounds was to be celebrated, Ken Olisa told the sponsors who backed the scheme, which is a media first.

Mr Olisa’s comments come in the week that the apprentices begin two years of training which includes a 20-week fast-track NCTJ Diploma in Journalism course at UCFB’s Wembley Stadium campus. The scheme was launched with four partners – Goldman Sachs, The Peabody Trust, The Stationers’ Foundation and the NCTJ Diversity Fund – who helped fund the project.

Mr Olisa, a notable business leader and currently a non-executive director of Thomson Reuters, said the timing of the apprentice’s scheme was perfect. He said: Democracy depends on engaged electors making informed choices.  It is the job of the press to provide the information and context for those choices.”

“For this to work, the producers of that information must come from a diverse set of backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. If the profession of journalism is dominated by a narrow class of people, honest though they may be, their perspectives will be limited by their narrow aperture too.

“The Evening Standard Media Diversity Bursary Scheme is helping to defeat that danger of narrowing the aperture in two ways. Firstly, by sending a message to the readers and writers of news that journalism is open to all based on merit – and that a diversity of background is to be celebrated.”

Well over 200 people applied for the editorial apprenticeships which were open to anyone aged over 16 who had not been to university.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan gave his “wholehearted support” to the scheme, adding: “One area where there are clearly still some deep-rooted inequalities is journalism, with ethnic minority groups in particular significantly under-represented within the industry. In my view, just as we need to see our public services become more representative of the communities they support, it’s important that the people who work in the media reflect the communities they report on and the audiences they serve.”

The NCTJ Chief Executive Joanna Butcher said: “This innovative scheme has delivered on its promise to help school leavers from diverse backgrounds forge a career in journalism. I’m sure they will bring a different dynamic to the newsroom and brilliant original ideas and ways of working that will help the Evening Standard and Independent engage with new readers and audiences.”

The apprentices started their NCTJ programme at UCFB on Monday 30th January. They will then complete their apprenticeship with on-the-job training at the Evening Standard, The Independent and London Live Television.