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Chris – Project Officer, Making The Leap

May 18, 2016

I have lived in Mitcham in South London pretty much my whole life. While I was born and raised in the UK, both my parents were raised in Ghana which influenced a lot of my upbringing.

I am a huge fan of literature and love to read in my spare time. I also have a passion for writing as a hobby, regularly finding time to come up with and explore new ideas for books. It is a future ambition of mine to one day publish a book of my own.

After my A-Levels, I attended the University of Hertfordshire, where I got my BA in Business Administration. My writing ability and natural problem solving skills drew me towards marketing, and upon graduating I became determined to pursue it as a career.

One thing that has been an issue for me in the past was my confidence in interviews. I have always been sure of my abilities, and I have no problem striking up conversation or even presenting in front of many people. But somehow, the very idea of selling myself to a panel of interviewers always intimidated me. It got to the point where I felt so much pressure to make a great first impression that it drove me to make a bad one. This would then make me feel under even more pressure to impress during the next interview, thus continuing the cycle.

I started to take on voluntary and temporary jobs in relevant roles for experience in order to boost both my CV and my confidence, but it never seemed to be enough to get me used to the interview process. I occasionally found success when applying for jobs, but they often deviated from what I was determined to pursue; marketing. But then I found Making The Leap.

Enrolling on the MTL workshop was one of the best decisions I ever made. The programme challenges you to experience the realities of a corporate workplace, increasingly testing your abilities as the days go by until you find yourself doing tasks you would otherwise never consider doing as a matter of course. Going through it not only helped me dispel many of my interview anxieties, it helped me to feel like the professional I knew I was capable of becoming. I am incredibly grateful to the MTL programme, and when the opportunity to work with the people who helped me presented itself, I with no hesitation.

I am now in a role that I not only love, but which gives me a number of tasks identical to those I would experience in a marketing role. I feel more confident than ever that my ambition to build a successful marketing career is within my reach, and I have both Making The Leap and the Moving On Up initiative to thank for that.

Kenny – YBM project officer, Hackney CVS

May 13, 2016
 Kenny – YBM project officer, Hackney CVS

Kenny – YBM project officer, Hackney CVS

I started off as a young man whose parents were very protective of and never let me interact with the outside world. Going to school was for me the only opportunity to come into contact with other individuals but my lack of interaction with people led me to withdraw into myself. Unable to understand how to relate with others, I was always on the defensive, which brought me into challenging situations. As a result, my school decided to assign me to a mentor – Nick, with whom I met every week to talk about my life inside and outside of school. We also did many enjoyable activities such as bowling, going to watch Arsenal games, build model cars etc.

Before having a mentor, I felt that no one knew how to deal with me but Nick had patience and allowed me to open up when I was ready. He taught me essential life skills and the importance of politics and political figures. One of the last times I saw my mentor was at a Christmas party at 11 Downing Street with the Chancellor of Exchequer who was Gordon Brown at the time. Nick believed in me, spoke words of wisdom into my life and years later it manifested.     

This mentoring programme not only showed me how to interact with others and become part of the society, but it also gave me a sense of direction as I realised that I wanted to work in the government. Eight years later, I started to work for the Treasury and over the last three years, I have been volunteering with Hackney council as an inspirational peer leader for the Moving On Up initiative. I use my life experiences and success to encourage young people who face difficulties to get into work and education, and I help them build confidence the same way Nick has helped me.

My mentor and the various organisations I came across have had an enormous impact on my life as they help me build a strong foundation. They invested their time in me and because of that, I have been able to come this far. I believe that people like me are examples of hope, change and resilience and no matter what situation you are in, you can turn a mess into a message. All it requires is patience, someone who can believe in you, motivate you and help you get a sense of direction. This is exactly what plenty of young people out there need in their life.  

Hackney CVS Visionaries

May 04, 2016
After an intense week visiting major places in Atlanta and meeting incredible African American entrepreneurs, the young black men from Hackney CVS are back in London, inspired and motivated as ever, and ready to take their career plan to the next level.
BTEG had the chance to meet with some of these young men to talk about this life changing trip and their “new resolutions”. Their positive energy was palpable as well as their eagerness to share their experience. When asked about their exciting sojourn to Atlanta, five words resonated among all of them: “We want to go back”. However, they all recognised that coming back to London was necessary. In fact, this trip to the home of Martin Luther King broadened their vision and made them realise that there is a lot to be done in London especially in black communities. For these young men, going to Atlanta was not only needed, insightful and powerful, but it was also inspiring as they met entrepreneurs at the top of their craft and had the opportunity to witness in six days, what Bola Abisogun FRICS built in 16 years. Surprisingly, they didn’t expect this trip to have such an impact on them. As young black men in Atlanta, they didn’t feel like a minority. The environment they interacted with, the people they met and how they were being addressed influenced the way they carried themselves. Better yet, the language they used to describe themselves also changed: they became entrepreneurs. They were also struck by the many initiatives humble and hardworking African American entrepreneurs took to empower their community especially young people. 
Amongst these initiatives is the Allen Entrepreneurial Institute whose aim is to give young people the opportunity to become leaders and entrepreneurs as well as developers of communities and creators of jobs. Hackney CVS young men also noticed that in Atlanta, there is a strong unity within the black community, a high respect for black-owned business and most importantly, young people are encouraged to be the best they can be. This is why, back in Hackney with a self-belief at 100%, the young men have created a network to encourage and support each other, as they are ready to be at the top of their craft and build their own legacy.
They also feel the importance to be role models to young black men in empowering them to achieve great things, and to use the knowledge they gain in Atlanta to bring positive changes to London’s black communities. The first step toward these changes has to be unity within the communities then respect and development of black-owned business. There is also a need for a shift of focus that is to say; creating a movement whereby entrepreneurship is every young black men aspiration.
To Hackney CVS visionaries, as we would like to call them, these great ideas for changes wouldn’t have been strengthened if not for Bola Abisogun FRICS, Mike Williams (Urbanis) and Jeremy Crook OBE (BTEG), who inspired and encouraged them, and enabled this trip to Atlanta, a place which now occupies an important place in their life. In return, BTEG would like to thank Deji Adeoshun, Kenny Ladipo, Samson Osun, Daniel Burnett-Williams, Nathan De-Souza, Brian Ohouot and Awat Kiflyesus for sharing their experience, and wishes them all the best in their future plans.
To learn more about this trip to Atlanta, click here.

All London Voices

Apr 05, 2016

Getting the views and concerns of young black, Asian and minority ethnic Londoners heard in the 2016 Mayoral election

In case it may have passed you by, Londoners are electing a new Mayor in May, when the huge political personality that is the current Mayor, Boris Johnson, steps down.

The campaign up until now has been quite subdued, with the Westminster village focusing on a referendum about the tiny matter of the country’s future relationship with Europe. Although it has so far failed to produce any fireworks, the substantive issues of the campaign are of profound importance to all Londoners and to the country. They focus primarily around economic prosperity, growing inequality and London’s housing crisis.

Some of the key challenges that face London’s BAME communities are demonstrated by:

  • Unemployment amongst Pakistani women in London is 28.6% compared to 15.7% for white women
  • Unemployment amongst black undergraduates six months after gaining their degree is 9.7% compared to 4.6% for their white peers
  • Around two in five Black African and Bangladeshi people in London live in overcrowded housing

What these figures highlight is the wide ranging impact of inequality across the capital and how it effects young ethnic minorities and can make it feel that they are locked out of the opportunities in one of the richest cities in the world. Engaging people in the democratic process is critical and voting levels are lowest for young people and ethnic minority groups.

CORE is an alliance of civil society organisations working to address race equality. It would like to produce an e-manifesto for change that reflects the views of young BAME Londoners. With the kind financial contribution of Trust for London, the Black Training and Enterprise Group (BTEG) – a CORE member organisation - will oversee All London Voices, a time-limited project with the aim of capturing the views of London’s BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) voluntary and community sector and young people and giving them a voice in the run-up to the 2016 London Mayoral elections.

BTEG will hold a series of community consultations with BAME organisations through our networks and beyond to inform the e-manifesto.  It will set out the ten main concerns and policy ideas of London’s BAME communities for the mayoral candidates to consider and for the chosen mayor to address over the next five years. Such issues as affordable social housing, welfare and tax credits reductions, unemployment, and pay gaps are likely to be high priorities.

There will be a hustings meeting of the candidates in late April, with an audience of young people, held at the British Library.

CORE is also conducting a survey of young people 16-30 and hopes to attract a 300-500 responses. Click here to view the survey.

This is a crucial election and our aim is to ensure that the views of young people from London’s BAME communities are heard.

The Government’s plans for achieving the BME 2020 challenge

Mar 21, 2016

In 2015 Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to increase the black and ethnic minority (BME) employment rate by 20% as part of his Vision 2020.

Following this pledge, in February (2016), the Moving On Up Advisory Group Chair with BTEG and Trust for London met with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) officials to discuss the Government’s plans for achieving this target referred to as “The BME 2020 Challenge”.

According to the Minister for Employment Priti Patel, this challenge needs to be tackled in a holistic way across all Government departments and local authorities. Indeed, to DWP, it is critical to achieve full employment, help people achieve their aspirations and ensure that British businesses make the most of the talent and potential that exists in the BME communities across the United Kingdom.

To help meet “The BME 2020 Challenge”, DWP is launching new guidance for Jobcentres and local partners, developing new approaches to support BME groups and targeting a number of BME unemployment hotspots the department has identified. In addition, DWP will ensure that all national employment programmes support BME groups with suitable services.


DWP guidance for Jobcentres:

Understand your community:

  • Prevalent ethnic groups
  • Consider delivering employment outreach services

Understand your claimants:

  • Understand the barriers to employment of your BME claimants
  • Tailor support to individual needs
  • Understand the different type of racial discrimination
  • Provide English Language support

Understand your employers:

  • Tell positive messages about the business benefits of a diverse workforce
  • Encourage employers to offer mentoring and work experience opportunities
  • Challenge your employers’ recruitment processes
  • Connect employers with community partners

Understand your partners:

  • Partnering with community organisations

Bola Abisogun FRICS, Chair of the Moving On Up Advisory Group takes young black men from Hackney on an inspirational journey to Atlanta

Mar 16, 2016

Growing up in Hackney, one of London’s most deprived boroughs, Bola Abisogun has always been aware of the key socio-economic issues that affect young black men in the UK. Being a father of three young men, he often asked himself - “how can I make a sustainable difference given that the imbalance in society is so profound?” This self-assigned mission was not only aimed at his family but also at his community, and it contributed greatly to his self-growth. Indeed, Bola’s aspiration was to grow an international business and in 2000, sixteen years ago, he embarked on a trip to Atlanta seeking to find the largest black owned construction companies in the US, which – at the time – confirmed that to be H.J. Russell. His conversation with the company’s founder, Mr. Herman Russell, inspired him to come back to London and make a contribution to the industry. He later founded UrbanIs, an organisation which has successfully established two US companies in the field of Economic Development and Construction Cost Management. Bola’s success led him to share his journey into business in local schools and empower young black men through BTEG’s Routes2Success project.

For Bola, it is and has always been important to ‘turn, look back and pass the baton’. The idea of taking a group of young black men from Hackney over to Atlanta arose from a series of conversation that Bola had with the young men that he has engaged with over the last 3 years. While sharing their individual stories, the cohort pointed out that there is a lack of opportunity for young black men in London, which stops them from making positive changes in their lives. Therefore, Bola sought to raise the aspiration in these young men by offering them a life-changing experience through which he hopes they will find their purpose and take their life plan to the next level. The trip will lasts six days during which the young men will visit the Federal Reserve Bank, attend the 2016 Construction CareerExpo at the Georgia Convention Center, have several meetings with ‘African American men from the Diaspora’, visit the Allen Entrepreneurial Institute, the Center for Civil and Human Rights, Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Social Change and visit many other places and meet local businessmen. Upon their return to London, each of the participants must identify five other young black men who could benefit from the same experience, all in pursuit of establishing a lasting legacy in the London Borough of Hackney.

What do young black men have to say about their high unemployment rate in the UK?

Mar 08, 2016

During an action research conducted by BTEG between 2013 and 2014, young black men were asked about their views and experiences of unemployment and job seeking. The participants, whose qualifications and employment status were similar to the profile of all young black men in London, provided moving personal accounts and important insights into the factors affecting their employment opportunities. In addition, they all shared understanding of each other’s experiences and viewpoints. Some of them described the high unemployment rates for young black men in the UK as the historical legacy of slavery. Even though these young men considered that this reason was not worth focusing on, they still felt that they are “trying hard” to make their way in a society where the odds are stacked against them. Unfortunately, they believe that employers simply reflect the rest of society’s negative stereotyping of young black men in terms of making recruitment decisions. On the other hand, the young men participating in the action research explained that the other factor affecting their employment opportunities is the quality of assistance from support services. Being active job seekers, they felt that most advisers from Jobcentre Plus or Work Programme were indifferent to their situations. Finally, they also believed that strong supportive networks are lacking in black communities compared with other ethnic minority communities. This factor disadvantages young black men when looking for work as they recognised that these are a valuable means of identifying opportunities and gaining work experience.

The following quotes obtained from the research reflect the range of views young black men expressed on unemployment and their experiences of looking for work.





For more information about the survey and BTEG’s action plan, click here





7 things I’ve learned about start-ups in London

Feb 17, 2016
 As Programme Director for Opening Doors Network (ODN), here are seven things I've learned about start-ups in London:
1. Women want to start their own business as much as, if not more than men. 
Of the participants on our ODN programme, 62% were women from a range of backgrounds and ages. Our greatest successes in terms of businesses created and trading were women from black British African-Caribbean backgrounds who were mothers, with over 50% of total business start-ups coming from this group. The need to work in a flexible way around childcare needs, whilst still providing an income for their families was the main driver for the women on ODN wanting to start their own business.
2. People from BAME backgrounds want to be self-employed. 
88% of participants on ODN were from an ethnic minority background with 80% of those identifying as black. This is double the proportion of the population in London who identify as coming from an ethnic minority background - currently around 40%. The boroughs that ODN delivered in - Brent, Croydon and Haringey - have a proportionately higher number of BAME residents however this figure was still high. 
Many participants on the programme had been employed at some point but felt that career progression was limited - possibly due to their ethnicity. Some also didn’t want to work hard for someone else, preferring instead to work hard to grow their own business. Some had family recipes for products that they wanted to develop and manufacture on a larger scale or wanted to develop hair and beauty products for themselves and friends/family.
3. Young people are less likely to start a business than someone over 30. 
Though ODN was aimed at those aged 18-30, 54% of participants were above 30. Young people initially engaged with the programme. However, with other issues going on in their lives they were not able to focus fully on getting their business idea off the ground. Many lacked the confidence and motivation to see their idea through to start-up. Also they were often dealing with issues relating to housing, finances and personal relationships. Those over 30 were more stable in these areas of their lives and able to concentrate on their business. 
The young people that were successful were mothers - again those wanting to work in a flexible way around childcare. In response to these needs, BTEG has developed Ready4Work - a programme that will enable young people to gain skills to navigate life and be successful in their chosen path – be that employment, business start up or further/higher education.
4. Having positive BAME role models inspires people to achieve. 
Some of the workshops on ODN were delivered by BAME entrepreneurs sharing their start-up journeys and experiences. They were able to talk about barriers they faced and how they overcame them from a perspective that ODN participants could relate to. Several of the participants from the earlier days of the project went on to become role models and deliver sessions to later groups. 
5. Networking and improving social capital can be invaluable to widen networks essential to business support - but only if you’re willing to take the time to learn how to do it and then do it! 
“Meeting people who can help with my business development” was identified as one of the main benefits of ODN in an initial questionnaire that participants completed. 
However, the reality of actually attending networking events in central London proved challenging for them. Reasons for not attending included childcare and work commitments. 
6. You don’t always need a business plan to start a business - but it helps! 
47% of participants on ODN either registered a business and/or were trading. 50% of participants produced a business plan. However, not everyone who started trading had a plan - particularly those who started with a produce or service and traded informally to test the idea without needing much financial backing to do so. Some of these participants moved onto trading without ever really producing a plan at the time. Many worked on getting the business up and running on a very small scale rather than producing a plan and seeking finance. 
Businesses who wanted to scale up, though, recognised the value of having a business plan to both seek finance and to articulate what they wanted to achieve.
7. Completing a business start-up training programme doesn’t just lead to becoming self employed. 
Over 20% of participants on ODN went onto full or part-time employment, college or university. Many participants were unemployed when they started on the programme and felt that it gave them the confidence they needed to start work or college. Many plan to continue to develop their start up idea whilst working or studying.

Prisoners: Could education be the route to early release?

Nov 19, 2015 - Comments: 0

Michael Gove, the Justice Secretary, is considering an ‘earned release’ scheme for prisoners. What does this entail?

It means that prisoners who show commitment to taking part in educational activities and are able to gain qualifications will be considered for early release. However, there is the one additional and important clause. These prisoners need to demonstrate that they have changed attitudes and are ready to contribute positively to society. Is this the right incentive and will it work?

According to Juliet Lion from the Prison Reform Trust “nearly half of prisoners report having no qualifications and 42% of people in prison say they had been expelled or permanently excluded from school.” Is this not because they are disengaged from education?

From my experience, both as a teacher and a manager of a national role model programme that aims to inspire young black males to raise their aspirations in education and employment, I can honestly say that with the right material and practitioners you can get the most difficult young people to engage. If this new scheme is to be successful prisons need to ensure that the right staff are employed in their teaching roles and are able to motivate and inspire the young people

Many of the young prisoners, especially those from a black and ethnic minority (BAME) background, that have engaged in the Black Training and Enterprise Group’s (BTEG’s) Routes2Success role model programme have commented on the way that they have been inspired by the role models and motivated to continue on to further education or pursue entrepreneurship opportunities upon release.

“I study already, made me continue to aspire. The speakers at the event have helped me to stay motivated about education and continue with my degree. Made me realise that you can be successful though coming to jail. Thanks” Inmate at HMP Ranby.

A review will be carried out by Dame Sally Coates to look in to the educational provision that is in place in prisons. I hope that role model and mentoring programmes are taken in to account and recognised for the value that they add for keeping prisoners educationally motivated and on track to being rehabilitated. It is also important to recognise that not all prisoners are academic and, in the same way that Gove wants to raise the numeracy and literacy levels of prisoners, it is vital that those with a more practical ability are given a chance to gain qualifications in these areas.

What we don’t want is the same attitude that he took with the school curriculum by devaluing those subjects that the less academic students will flourish in. Like students at school there will be learners of all abilities and with preferred methods of learning. This needs to be considered when promoting this scheme of ‘earned release’ through qualifications.

It is clear that with the prison staff that we have worked with, role models can build a rapport with the prisoners and open them up to the possible opportunities that there are in prison that will add value to their rehabilitation process.

“Our young men were engaging and opened up their thoughts and feelings about what their future holds outside of prison. The speaker encouraged them to raise their hands, be confident, speak out and be pro-active. At the end of the afternoon I had a few young men asking me for details on any business courses our establishment runs!” Equalities staff at HMP Wayland.

It makes sense that prisons work with other organisations that can offer this type of support and encourage prisoners to take up opportunities that they might otherwise shy away from because they cannot see the benefits.

In the case of BAME prisoners it has become clear that they are able to more easily accept advice and support from BAME role models who have come from a background similar to themselves. 

Black Lives Matter: The 2015 Bernie Grant Memorial lecture

Nov 19, 2015 - Comments: 0

I will always remember Bernie Grant’s classic request to the House of Commons for the UK to pay reparations to African and Caribbean nations for the slave trade; a cause to which he was totally committed. It was a truly sombre moment, which has even more resonance now as we know that the UK paid huge reparations to slave owning Britons when slavery was outlawed.  The moment was only broken by the laughter when he said his mother’s maiden name was Blair and so there may be a family link between the then Prime Minister and himself!

One of many truly memorable moments, from what was a truly momentous life!

Fate couldn’t have played a more appropriate hand when, in September, the Bernie Grant Memorial Lecture was delivered by the Guardian journalist Gary Younge in the week when a Muslim was selected as the London Labour Party candidate for Mayor and one of Bernie Grant’s oldest political comrades, Jeremy Corbyn, was elected leader of the Party.

Somewhere, I thought, Bernie is kicking back with that big infectious smile and a twinkle in his eye.

There was a full house on 10th September at the vibrant community Arts Centre in Tottenham - named after Bernie Grant - to hear Gary Younge’s reflections on the campaign in America – Black Lives Matter - formed from the popular resistance to the disproportionate slaying of young black men at the hands of the police.

Younge’s critique began with the USA’s founding myths and the ongoing paradox of a country many see as the standard bearer for modern nationhood. Young depicted a great country built on freedom and democracy that has no time to mention or reflect on the reality of those denied access to these founding ideals through genocide and slavery. Even with a black president, this great nation appears impotent in its response when the contradictions to this image of fairness and integrity rear their unwelcomed head.

For Young, Black Lives Matter resonates because the reality of modern America is that black lives too often don’t matter! The Justice Department’s own investigation into the Ferguson Police Department unearthed a culture of systemic civic administrative abuse and that revenue generation is stressed heavily within the police department and judicial system – for example, fines for minor traffic offenses. These cause disproportionate hardship upon Ferguson’s most poor and vulnerable residents.

What I took from the lecture was that racism still plays a profoundly powerful role in modern America but in less visible and more furtive forms than in the era of civil rights. These can be seen, for example, in the growing structural economic and political inequality and the fragmentation of the African American community through class and status. Even with a black President, real reform seems remote.    

What’s the answer? Well Younge didn’t profess to have one and, as someone who had lived in another country for twelve years, he didn’t to respond to questions on what the UK and the black community here should do.

But perhaps the make-up of his panel for the Q and A pointed us in the right direction. They were all under 30 - a new generation. Engaging them in dialogue has to be the key.

A brilliant night and you can read Gary’s lecture on the website of the Bernie Grant archive and find out about the Bernie Grant Arts Centre here


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