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How can we raise employment rates for young black men?

SUPPORT: DWP’s Kerry Fern, Minister for Employment Damian Hinds, Jamel Fraser, Kyle Colquhoun, and MoU CEO Jeremy Crook

SUBVERTING STEREOTYPES associated with young black men today can be difficult. While their characteristics and mannerisms are often fetishised or idolised in society, they remain limited in their representation and ability to progress within the job market. Today, we are beginning to see organisations interrogate these stereotypes and create a much-needed dialogue to fight these labels, and help young black men achieve success in education and the workforce.

Moving On Up, a £1.1 million collaborative initiative between The Trust for London, the City of London Corporation’s charity, City Bridge Trust, and the Black Training and Enterprise Group (BTEG), aims to increase the employment rates of young black men in London over the next two years (2015-17) by funding work that will improve the support offered to them and to increase their pathways into employment.

“We’ve been trying to influence government policy to address the issue of employment amongst young black men and ethnic minorities,” said Jeremy Crook, the CEO of Moving On Up. The project held an event which was attended by employment minister Damian Hinds, who spoke to the young men and heard of the struggles and hardships they've faced when trying to get work.

"What I understand today is that being a young black man, is having the problems of being a young man but even more so in the jobs market," said Hinds. "I think it’s even more concerning that there can be a hidden prejudice directed towards black men, but we do have organisations which use name blind recruitment and training on company bias to make them more aware.”

The rates of employment for black people has improved largely as there are more black people in work than ever before, according to new figures. The employment rate for black people has hit a record 66.6% high, up early 3 percentage points in the past year alone.

The Moving On Up Project's current initiative program aims to help 500 young black men into work using six local organisations, whilst helping them to prepare for the workforce and overcome the barriers that many black men face. “We’re really trying to help overcome these barriers, but also to identify how we can get employers to reach that talent pool more effectively.”

While improvements have been made, the need for projects like MoU and statistics show that there's still a lot of work to be done. According to BTEG, the unemployment rate for young black men in the UK is more than double the rate for young white men, and the unemployment rate for young black men has remained persistently high despite improvements in their educational attainment. “We need to get more employers engaged in college and university students early on, and for academics to really understand that employability support is really important just as important ask attaining a degree,” says Crook.

Although the Moving On Up initiative comes to a close in March 2017, they're hoping that there will be a phase two and encourage interested young black men and businesses to get in touch. “I hope that the initiative will hit its target, and there is something that can be sustained from this so young people can still be supported,” says Jamel Fraser, a young man who's played an active role in the Moving On Up project. “Maybe young people will even take the initiative themselves to create their own youth groups in their local areas so they can talk, encourage and uplift each other, from one peer to another.”

Read the full feature in next week's issue of The Voice.

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