ELBA’s response to youth unemployment

We cannot ignore the monumental change the Black Lives Matter Movement is having on corporations, government, and stakeholders. Nor can we ignore the ongoing issue of serious youth violence and how the matters of race and the criminal justice system are undoubtedly interlinked. ELBA is pleased that the City Trust Fund, Trust for London and the Violence Reduction Unit understand that Black, Asian and other minority communities are affected disproportionately, and have shown their support by funding two pilot projects, ‘Moving on Up’ (MoU) and ‘Everyone’s Business’. These projects cover the boroughs of Waltham Forest, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Barking and Dagenham.

How can we all move forward when some of us are left behind?

ELBA, with the help of our funders, members and grassroots partners, is on a mission to reduce youth violence across East London and to improve access to sustainable careers for young black people and other minority groups. The Mayor for London announced in October 2018 that he was adopting a public health approach to the issue of youth violence, stating “We cannot arrest our way out of this problem. A public health approach will require all sections of the community to play their part – it is everyone’s business.” As a result, Everyone’s Business works with young people aged 16–25 affected by or at risk of being impacted by youth violence. The project also provides our delivery partners’ network organisations with the chance to receive capacity building training and support through corporate volunteers.

MoU was born out of recognition of the disparity between unemployment in young black men and unemployment in young men of other ethnicities. It aims to increase employment rates and opportunities for young black men aged 16–24 that reside in Newham. The previous iteration of this programme helped to place over 270 young black men into paid work, and the data shows that the impact was greatest on psychological issues – candidates credited the programme with improving their confidence, motivation and overall awareness of employers’ expectations. Through our experiences and from the data, we know that both BAME groups and the youth in general are negatively affected in the labour market, and that is where we find the target group for the Moving on Up and Everyone’s Business programmes. Statistically, young black men are particularly disadvantaged in the labour market, and as such face an even more difficult battle to progress than their counterparts from non-minority-ethnicity groups.

How can we pivot and change the narrative? Let them tell the story…

As always, our goal remains to expose the talent that the most disaffected groups possess to those who are often blind to it, typically by creating a structure whereby we can improve their confidence and knowledge. Then all that is left to do is to let the talent talk for itself – the proof is often in the pudding! We all hope that candidates can dispel these constraints and elevate themselves to a higher standing, but we know that they often need a helping hand to encourage them on the journey and to instil self-belief within them.

The current pandemic was a shock to us all but the impacts on youth employment will be particularly long-lasting. According to the Office for National Statistics (August 2020) “employment is weakening, with the number of people on zero-hours contracts increasing to over 1 million”. The report also shows that in comparison to any other age group unemployment among 16–24-year olds has increased. Job-shadowing, career insights, events, mentorship opportunities and other interactions available through the programmes are aimed at increasing these young people’s social capital. A key finding from the previous Moving on Up programme was a lack of ability to utilise personal relationships to find work, and this should be a key area for development for anyone who is interested in developing their overall prospects.

Here at ELBA, we are acutely aware of the troubles that many groups face as they try to navigate their way through life, and we remain united in our drive to provide support and assistance wherever we can. We remain steadfast in our push to support those around us who require it. Young people, regardless of what stage they are at, can, and with our support, will, be able to rebuild their lives.

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