Immediate action needed to help tackle youth unemployment

I was glad to see the Evening Standard campaign to highlight the issue of youth unemployment this week. Organisations like City Gateway, who were highlighted in the paper, are doing great work to get young people from tough backgrounds into work, and they are bringing big employers along with them.

BITC also focus on this, with our work in schools and work inclusion, alongside the Princes Trust who do so much to bring hope to young people.

Race for Opportunity is a part of the conversation on youth unemployment because currently, BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) young people are twice as likely to be out of work as their white counterparts.

We are at real risk of a lost generation. Those leaving school and university can’t find jobs. Being from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic background means you are even more likely to get left behind. Long term unemployment has a long term impact on progression and pay – even when you do get a job, the disconnection with the job market makes it hard to catch up. I have three asks for business on tackling youth unemployment:

  1. Be a mentor – anyone can be one. You don’t have to be BAME! Workplaces are filled with skilled people who can help with mentoring, reading, being role models, careers advice, and much more.

  2. Consider paid apprenticeships and work experience schemes. These are long-term commitments bring real commercial rewards to business. 

  3. Be mindful of diversity. Monitor the take-up of these programmes and their outcomes. If a particular apprenticeship or work experience scheme doesn’t have any ethnic minority participants, then it isn’t reflective of society in the UK.

Now when one in three schools has no plan to deliver careers advice, the future of our young people contains increasing challenges. Where else can they turn to for career advice or support, whether it’s to ask about what subjects to study for a specific career, how to get an apprenticeship or for general advice on the career pathways open to them? Here’s a place where people already in work can be a great help!

With avenues of advisory support being increasingly off and youth unemployment on the rise, I believe businesses have a responsibility to start reaching out to disconnected groups of young people early on. Businesses should encourage employees to become involved as part of their commitment to responsible business practice.

This is very much about businesses recognising that talent and long-term commercial returns can be found in the most diverse people and places, including the untapped potential of our ethnic minority and white young people. And this potential can only be achieved through long-term strategy and commitment. Some businesses that are committed to a diverse and inclusive workforce are already taking action to reach out to diverse and hard to reach groups, but in my view, there is much more that can be done!


Race for Opportunity is determined to keep on highlighting the need to address youth unemployment. We want to hear how these issues have affected you. We’ll soon be asking business leaders, employees, young people, and anyone with a story to share their message through a short video or through twitter. If you’ve got a story, tell it to us!

At the RfO Awards Dinner 2012 we will be revealing the first of these videos from some of the UK’s most senior business leaders. All I ask of you all now, is to start thinking about what your message or commitment will be towards tackling youth unemployment.

By collaborating, we will find solutions.