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COVID-19 is no longer only a health crisis, it is now also an economic one that is drastically affecting the employment landscape of our UK society. This is a fact particularly felt by young people, within that demographic, the most at risk at people of colour, and more specifically, Black people. That is because:
In this current climate, Black young people are losing hope for the future. The government’s Kickstart scheme that has the intention of creating work placements is a fantastic addition to the landscape as it supports the creation of jobs for young people across the country. However, the availability of jobs is not the only issue and based on our research, it isn’t the root cause of the impending youth unemployment crisis we are facing. The UK government seems to acknowledge that there is a skills gap because the Kickstart scheme requires employers to train their placement staff in key employability skills such as CV writing and time management. While important, it does not place any regulation or guidelines around what is satisfactory training for young people. It also does not specify that there must be a transfer of any hard skills that would truly ensure the employability of the young people in the future.
The pressing challenge is that economic security post-pandemic, particularly for young people entering into the job market at this time, is going to be dependent on privileges that they already have such as who their parents know or where they live. We don’t want this crisis to continue to exacerbate the opportunity disparity we have seen over the years. That’s why we are focused first on the creative and digital sector (the least diverse sectors with the most potential for young people to enter into). Our work, therefore, seeks to train young Black people in tech skills and creative skills from coding to graphic design, sound engineering and video production. These are the skills that will ensure that they can enter and maintain their place in the creative and digital sectors once they do get a job. Why the creative and digital sectors? Its because the creative and digital economies are vital to the UK, with employment in the creative sector growing by a third between 2011 and 2017 and 50% faster than the wider economy and we expect this trend to continue.
Despite the strengths of the UK’s creative/digital sector and the opportunities within it, we are not seeing people of colour benefit in ways that reflect our demographic representation. Barriers to entering and building a career within the creative and digital industries include socioeconomic status, a lack of understanding of education and career pathways, employer practices, informal recruitment practices, high levels of freelance/self-employment and the pervasive nature of unpaid internships as a route into the sector and building necessary experience. Underrepresented groups in particular face a lack of knowledge about the sectors and types of job roles. As in other parts of the economy, issues of unconscious bias within the creative and digital industries also impact on the opportunities for underrepresented groups. Whilst many businesses have been hit hard and are not currently hiring, opportunities are still available and the creative and digital industries are well placed to lead the economic recovery. Young people are being hit hardest both through job losses and as they leave education and enter the labour market during the sharpest recession for decades. As a result, we have developed an innovation that benefits those most in need who would otherwise be most likely to be passed over for opportunities, and support employers in the creative and digital industries to take advantage of this diverse talent pool.
The starting point for our work has been a recognition of the diverse and elaborate nature of communities and the need for a collaborative approach which allows us to assess progress from different starting points. At Do it Now Now we believe that community participation is both a process and an outcome. For us, change must be seen to be taking place and benefits must be felt, but for this change to be long-lasting it must be underpinned with learning and commitment. Therefore, we highly encourage and facilitate our beneficiaries’ participation in decision-making. We have found that creating a transparent process gives them the opportunity to engage in the mechanisms that run the process and empowers them to engage in employment systems effectively. The young people will each gain:
(1) A better understanding of and focus on their desired career
(2) An understanding of how to use their skills to inform strategic decisions and improve services
(3) Increased knowledge and skills of negotiating, client services, leadership and operations
(4) Increased knowledge of the employment ecosystem and key networks in their chosen field
(5) The ability to collaborate and build teamwork
(6) A support system of fellow creative and digital professionals to support them throughout their career
The Black experience is very different from that of other racialised and non-racialised groups. We have to contend with different issues, fall prey to different gaps in the availability of resources and are in need of different support mechanisms. We need this now more than ever and the moment we are in calls for it. Like the last economic recession, the Black community has been hit very hard by COVID and the economic impacts of the pandemic have created a real knock-on effect. Now more than ever, we need employers to understand the needs of Black people through the creation of opportunity and training through specific approaches they may not be used to. This funding will allow us to identify Black people, not in employment, education or training and support them in developing their hard and soft skills to ensure their future at work.
Through the program, we will ensure that the organisations we support to onboard the Black employees we train are able to contribute to the local and national effort for job recovery for young people. Our goal is to actively support every school in the UK and every business in the UK seeking to engage in fairer practices and increase the diversity of their talent pool. We see this becoming one of the predominant ways young Black people, particularly those that have not attended university, to gain access to the creative and digital sectors.
Our ambition is to solve the access to industry problem once and for all while also working with the organisations to decrease the diversity problem that also exists at the senior level of these organisations. We are creating a qualified talent pool for them to recruit from and then a diverse pipeline for senior-level positions from within their own organisation. Through the continued support we provide to their staff through myriad engagements and training opportunities, the employers that work with us will contribute to a much more equitable future for young people, while also benefiting from the innovative thinking that comes from a diverse workforce.
As we continue to develop, we see our definition of creative and digital industries loosening to include all businesses that are hiring for creative and digital entry-level roles. One of the key upsides of our innovation is that even when the young person is in the role, they continue to be supported by us, their programme peers and by the mentors we have connected them to through the course of the programme. This lends itself well into supporting Black young people at companies that are not yet truly diverse or where they may not have other key creative and digital senior leadership to help them make the most out of their role, position or help them further develop their skills. Thereby, we are ensuring that even those young people who are somewhat isolated in terms of race or skill-wise are being effectively supported.
In the future, we expect that every business will have to own up to its part in the diversity and inclusion issues we are noticing across all industries. We are positioning ourselves to be a key player in the solution of the issue in a way that plugs into the needs of employers while solving the problem at its root.
If you would like to support us or engage with us on this subject, please get in touch with us directly via our contact page.