Breaking the persistent barriers to BAME youth employment

Blog by Sandra Kerr OBE, Race Equality Director, Business in the Community​

Last week I had the privilege of chairing a round table looking at youth transitions into employment and ethnicity. Joseph Roundtree Foundation had released their latest paper ‘Supporting ethnic minority young people from education into work’.

We know that there are persistent challenges in youth unemployment and it is much higher among several ethnic minority groups than it is in the majority White population.  Business in the Community’s Race at the Top report spotlighted that one in 10 of the UK workplace is from a Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) background, yet one in eight of the working age population are from a BAME background.  This is because of a persistent unemployment gap that has existed for many years and must be tacked urgently.  Access to apprenticeship opportunities are also a challenge with applications being as high as 25% for BAME young people but only 9% being successful at interview, a trend which is echoed in the Business in the Community Race and Gender Benchmark 2014.

There was discussion about the need for good quality careers advice and for employers and relevant agencies to take a local approach to tackling employment challenges, including using the supplier chain collaborations to promote this approach from all local stakeholders.

It brought into sharp focus the importance of the role of employers from the public and private sector, large and SME, where possible to:

  • Monitor each stage of the recruitment process, engage ethnic minority people at each stage of the selection process including sift, interview, assessment and selection decisions.

  • Consider pre-application awareness actions and workshops to ensure understanding of what skills and potential they are looking for to fill vacancies and roles.

  • Consider the simple mentoring model Business in the Community’s Race team piloted with employers and Brixton Jobcentre which produced great results of young ethnic minority people progressing into employment.

  • Local authorities have a key role to play by encouraging local employers to recruit a more diverse workforce and working with employers and young people to broker opportunities.

  • Employers should use data to understand the diverse population and develop tailored approaches to support disadvantaged youth in the labour market and improve their employment outcomes.

  • Local authorities and employers should consider targets for improving employment and access to apprenticeship places for BAME young people which reflect their demographic composition of the local area. Our infographic and fact sheets can help employers get started

  • Employers with good practice in recruitment and BAME communities need to come forward and share their good practice through existing award programmes, such as the Race for Opportunity Awards.