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Even before the pandemic, Black young people were often discriminated against based on their ethnicity during the recruitment processes. With a reduction in available employment due to Covid battering the economy, the grim reality was that this discrimination would get worse and the new briefing by The Resolution Foundation sadly confirms this. Its research found that prior to the pandemic, ‘25% of economically active Black 16-24 year-olds were unemployed, compared to 10% of their White counterparts.’ The unemployment rate among Black young people is now 34% compared to 13% among White young people.
These findings don’t surprise us. Every single one of the young people we work with have been economically impacted by the pandemic and are currently struggling to find work. On average, they have been unemployed for 7 months before engaging with us and 90% self-report as feeling overwhelmed and pessimistic about the future. 60% of them also state that they do not have relationships with people in the careers they are interested in engaging with, leaving them unprepared for a competitive job market in their chosen field.
We believe to improve employment prospects for young people during and after the Covid-19 crisis, we need to work with them directly to empower them to give voice to their experiences and aspirations. With the Resolution Foundation highlighting that 16-24 year-olds account for the biggest share of those finding themselves unemployed in the last year (57%), there is an urgent need to find new solutions to tackle this head on. It is already having a significant impact on the mental health of young people, with relatively low numbers of Black young people seeking help - and it is worrying what lasting effect it could have for all young people.
One of the ways we have been working to address this crisis is through our Voltage Revolution programme. We are proud to have been funded by STRIDE, a collective of London’s Southwark, Lewisham, Lambeth and Wandsworth boroughs, to support 18-24-year-old Black people who are not currently in employment, education, or training. Through our 6 month in-depth programme they will engage in a research-based, community-created support programme that is truly fit for purpose; closing the unemployment gap for Black young people.
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. In London, where the majority of the UK’s Black population live, creative/digital workers are also more productive than the average London worker and account for 1 in 6 jobs in the capital.
Voltage Revolution is a six month part-time training programme that will support young people to gain the digital and creative skills needed to get a job in one of London's best-paid industries. The trainees on the program will learn and gain new skills in audio and video engineering, web development, visual and design, content marketing as well as the transferable skills they need to get a job and progress in employment. They will also have the opportunity to be mentored by leaders and experts in the field and a two-week paid placement through which they will get to use their new skills to contribute to local charities and social enterprises in their local areas.
Commenting on the Resolution Foundation’s briefing, Yoanna Chikezie, our Innovation Manager, running Voltage Revolution, said:
“The feedback we have received from the young people in the Voltage Revolution program shows that young Black people feel that despite their talent, ambition and commitment to building their skills and abilities to pursue aspirations to work in the digital and creative sectors, they will have to work twice as hard as their white counterparts to achieve the same goal. Undoubtedly the pandemic has widened the gap and many employers have had to downsize, but young Black people feel that the pandemic is being used as an excuse to not hire them.”