Moving on from widening participation to equalising destinations – are you ready to ELBA?

 In Blog, CEO's blog, Education, Employment

Returning to a theme from my last blog about the joy of first going to university fading pretty fast if a young graduate is unable to find graduate level employment, here is an uncomfortable fact – young black male graduates are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as their white counterparts. This is from a 2014 action plan by BTEG (Black Training and Enterprise Group) aiming to increase employment rates for young black men in London. The report points out that despite rising educational participation and attainment for young black men, it is not yet resulting in a narrowing of the gap in employment.  As the BTEG  report states “The unemployment rate for young black men has remained persistently high despite improvements in their educational attainment. Black boys now perform almost as well as white boys at Level 2 and young black people have performed better than young white people at Level 3 in each of the last six years. Young black men have higher rates of post-16 education than white young men.”

Schools and universities have been actively engaged in getting more young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to go to university for many years. While there is a lack of robust evidence for the impact of Widening Participation initiatives, the rising rates of higher education for young black men point towards positive change. However, surely we should now all give as much attention to “Equalising Destinations” – striving to ensure that young people with good degrees get the same access to good careers no matter what their origin or family background.

ELBA established London Works three years ago with the support of our business and other partners to address this issue. The track record is good, with over 90% of starts being for young people from BAME backgrounds. But within that figure, we have to acknowledge that we do not do as well for young black graduates as we do for those from Asian backgrounds or for young women. Partly this is because we do not attract as many candidates from that group. Partly, as the excellent BTEG report shows, it is a complex mix of undeveloped family and social networks, fewer professional male role models, peer pressure and a feeling of powerlessness to make changes.

ELBA and London Works with our partners are determined to do our part to address this issue, working with major employers, local councils, housing providers and community groups. Many other organisations are doing the same. We believe we should approach the issue from a positive angle rather than a deficit model – less focussed on blame and much more on highlighting the great pool of talent, energy and enthusiasm that employers are missing out on.  Likewise, as far as graduates are concerned, there is no point berating universities, they are already straining every sinew to achieve good employment outcomes for their students. Rather I hope we might get a broad alliance of organisations to get behind a drive to Equalise Destinations as a new and exciting challenge. We as always are ready to ELBA.

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