Government urged to tackle rising unemployment among young black men

Neil Puffett
Thursday, October 18, 2012

Government must develop a co-ordinated strategy to get young black men into work or risk unemployment continuing to spiral, the man heading the Mayor of London's inquiry on education has warned.

Sewell wants a co-ordinated approach towards helping young black men. Image: Alex Deverill
Sewell wants a co-ordinated approach towards helping young black men. Image: Alex Deverill

Figures released yesterday by the TUC show that the proportion of 16- to 24-year-old young black men out of work rose from 14 per cent in 2002 to 26 per cent this year, the sharpest rise among all ethnic groups.

During the same period, the proportion of white young men in the same age group who were out of work increased from 10 per cent to 14 per cent.

Tony Sewell, who is leading Boris Johnson’s inquiry on schools – due to be published tomorrow – is calling on government to spearhead more imaginative ways of engaging and helping young black men, beyond measures contained in the £1bn Youth Contract.

He told CYP Now that current provision is not geared towards the often complex needs of young black men. “I’m not happy with some of the provision that is put on,” he said. “Some of the projects seem fairly short and do not really deal with the issues young black men are facing.

“I’m quite pessimistic about the prospects for those students not working, not engaged, and without qualifications. I think we have got to be a bit more imaginative.”

He said business must play a role in tackling the issue, by offering internships or work experience. But he added that any approach to help the 16- to 24-year-old age group into work must be complemented with additional help for black children in schools.

“The problem starts in primary schools,” he said. “Young black men still leave school without proper levels of numeracy and literacy and go into secondary school unable to cope.

“We need to deal with this at primary school level because until we get a grip on that we are going to be chasing our tail.”

Sewell’s call has been backed by Uanu Seshmi, consultant at the From Boyhood to Manhood Foundation, which helps young men to turn their lives around.

“A lot of young black men who leave school aren’t leaving with the right qualifications and are not socially or emotionally prepared for the workplace,” he said.

“Schools try to help, but cutbacks mean a lot of programmes have lost funding. Before young black men enter the workplace they need to learn the appropriate social and emotional skills and deal with the issues they are experiencing.”

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