Ellie Long: Developing a Diverse Talent Pipeline

Ellie Long | Early Careers Business Partner | Rolls-Royce

Passionately committed to giving young people from any background reach their potential, Ellie Long is actively supporting the next generation – particularly those who’ve faced significant challenges in their life.

As the Early Careers Business Partner at RollsRoyce, Ellie is determined to achieve great outcomes for the company and its people. As Rolls-Royce drives the transition to net-zero carbon to design a better future for the planet through electrification and digitalization, Ellie is driving talent attraction programs to design a better future for people who could be part of the Rolls-Royce journey, but may not know how.

Below are the highlights of the interview.

Brief our audience about your journey as a business leader until your current position at Rolls-Royce. What challenges have you had to overcome to reach where you are today?

I have been working in early careers and talent management for nearly five years following the completion of my Business Management degree. My interest in HR was sparked by recognizing a lack of female talent within senior management. Following my graduate program, I was keen to continue my professional development and completed my CIPD level 7 whilst working full time. My dissertation focused on the challenges females face when looking to progress in the workplace. I’d already faced comments, assumptions and been stereotyped at work because of my gender, age, and how I look. I knew I wanted to work in a role that would have an impact, and I see young people as the future of a business. There is a real opportunity to bring in a diversity of thought and bridge the skills gaps many organizations have.

I am driven by my passion for creating opportunities for people regardless of their education, upbringing, and social standing. In my view, social mobility is one of the biggest challenges we face in British society today. The polarity between ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ has become more acute – evidenced through the impact of inequalities across education, health, income, and career progression.

I’m determined to tackle the challenge of social mobility by truly supporting all young people to reach their potential. In my role as the Early Careers Business Partner at Rolls-Royce, the last year has introduced phrases such as the ‘lost generation’ and ‘digital divide.’ The pandemic has brought these long-standing issues to the public consciousness, therefore putting this at the forefront of a business talent agenda is fundamental.

My efforts to support young people continue through my voluntary role with Derby Toc H Children’s Camp, a charity to offer young people from care or lower socio-economic backgrounds a holiday each year. I know more needs to be done to raise young people’s aspirations and confidence, so I founded and hosted the HY-Up podcast to do just that. Over the period of lockdown, I’ve created 21 podcasts featuring over 30 young role models – all with a story of overcoming barriers to tell. I want to use the platform I have through my job and work to create longer-term, systemic change across education and work to make sure more and more disadvantaged young people have the opportunity to shine. I take every opportunity to appear on business webinars and talent panels I’m invited to speak at and will keep doing that. There’s so much more to do.

Enlighten us on how you have made an impact in the talent development niche through your expertise in the market.

As the lead for EMEA & APAC regions for early careers recruitment, I’ve refreshed the attraction approach for our new graduate program seeking candidates diverse in characteristics, social background, and thought. We’ve recently launched a new graduate program, and I am proud to have been an active part of its development to make sure we can take it to the market to attract students from all degree backgrounds. I’ve removed barriers to entry – moving away from degree classifications as entry criteria and assessing students for potential based on their motivation, behaviors, and values rather than technical knowledge. It’s a first in our industry and a great achievement in a consultative, complex, and large organization where only a few years ago, it was the norm to recruit Masters level engineering degrees as the minimum criteria.

I have moved our talent attraction strategy away from traditional red brick campus and advertising to focus on reaching a diverse mix of university talent and creating deeper, broader diverse talent pools. Covid-19 has given us the perfect platform to shift efforts to digital, and by doing this, I’ve been able to create a successful engagement strategy to reach more diverse students from a breadth of backgrounds across digital platforms and partnerships with enterprises such as Code First Girls, Care Leavers Covenant, Everything D&I and the Female, Neurodiversity, and Excellence through Adversity Undergraduate of the Year Awards.

Where do you envision yourself to be in the long run, and what are your future goals for Rolls-Royce?

I want to leave a lasting legacy. I have a seat at the table, and I want to use that to bring others with me, challenge the status quo – and in my current role – make Rolls-Royce, a leading employer for early careers opportunities. We have a generation who have finished school and university during a global pandemic, and I am confident this will impact their short-term and long-term priorities and ambitions. They are a generation who want and expect more from employers, and it is my role to hear their voice and represent this, challenging each of us to create an inclusive environment.

My ambitions of Rolls-Royce are to continue to drive forward inclusive hiring, removing the barriers for individuals who feel they do not have the opportunity to apply or be successful. I fundamentally believe if we crack the challenge of social mobility, we’ll create diverse workplaces that can solve the social and environmental challenges we’ll face in the future. A lot of our world will become automated, but the skills businesses will always require are linked to the strengths of diverse and neurodiverse individuals. Therefore, as business leaders we need to bring in talent who show skills such as creativity, innovation, agility, and strategic thinking. This will give Rolls-Royce the skills they need to become the world’s leading industrial technology company.

What would be your advice to budding women entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the talent development sector?

Somebody once said to me, “Be opinionated; it is an experience for others to watch, engage with and learn from.” And so, don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo. Disrupt whilst bringing others on the journey with you. Be credible through how you engage, consult and influence change. Rise to the many challenges of change in a complex, global business. The results I’ve achieved are because of my purpose, experiences, and values. As a neurodiverse female leader under 30, it is what makes me ‘me’ that differentiates my leadership style. This is my advice; have opinions, share them, be purposefully disruptive, be authentic, and have your own purpose.

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