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20% Increase in BME employment by 2020?

Last year David Cameron set an ambitious target to increase BME employment (including self employment) by 20% by the year 2020. However, subsequently not much has been said about what is being done to achieve these targets.

BTEG is involved in two separate programmes, both working to improve employment outcomes for those from BME backgrounds:

Moving on Up, funded by Trust for London and City Bridge Trust, involves six partners working to support young black men into employment.

Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) is funding four demonstration projects to test out solutions to support BME participants into quality jobs to help move them out of poverty.

Working across these programmes, and with a new Prime Minister in post, BTEG thought it was an ideal time to have a workshop bringing together the partners working to support people into work with Government departments and funders, to share the learning so far from the BME targeted programmes. 

At the workshop we heard from a number of speakers around diversifying the workforce.

Tony Thomas from Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) highlighted that there are 12 or 13 urban hubs in the UK where most of the UK BME population live. The government is keen to learn more about what works at local level to overcome barriers to employment for some BME groups. 

Kerry Fern from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) ran through a list of things which DWP are doing so support BME people into work – for example, Universal Credit, developing local JCP offer, talking to JCP employer engagement teams. DWP recognises that there are particular issues for some groups such as young black men. DWP is at a stage of ‘wanting to listen and learn’ about what works.

Kerry also mentioned:

  • BME employment hot spots;

  • DWP produced a toolkit on BME unemployment for  JCP work coaches to use hotspots – they are still developing this – should be ready in autumn;

  • Some JCPs working well with local BME communities – DWP talking to those to learn from best practice;

  • The 2020 target is national. DWP is not setting targets for local JCP districts – but is encouraging them to learn about their communities.

Trust for London spoke about some of the messages being tested on employers, specifically around employing young black men particularly to ensure that diversity targets for employers included ethnicity. Many employers tended to equate diversity with gender and disability and did not necessarily include or focus on ethnicity.

Project partners The Mayor’s Fund for London, Women Like Us and Hackney CVS spoke about their projects and how they engage both with employers and project participants. The Mayor’s Fund have set up an Employers Board and have engaged at a strategic level to address issues such as the potential skills shortage unless employers increase diversity and also by also raising awareness of the financial benefits that a more diverse workforce can bring.

Women Like Us reach their target group of Pakistani and Somali mums in Lambeth through the services they already access such as schools, sewing groups and via community champions and provide bespoke employment support but also work to increase confidence particularly in women who feel language is a barrier or have qualifications from other countries not recognised in the UK.

Hackney CVS has developed a holistic approach to improve employment outcomes for young black men in the borough. This includes support from school age, working with communities and agencies in the borough to provide this support.

In group discussions around what projects could do to contribute to the Government’s 2020 target, it was felt that a stronger message was needed from the Government on its BME target and that they should use their leverage to open doors with senior people in large companies to engage with achieving the target.

Some felt that having specific BME targets for employment within JCP at a localised level would help drive more rapid change.

Initiatives involving employers ranged from having jobs fairs with live jobs offered to use of positive action by employers.

The general feeling in the room was that much could be achieved by the collaboration of Government departments, funders and projects working on the front line to achieve the 2020 target. 

BTEG will share further learning coming out of both Moving on Up and JRF’s Poverty and Ethnicity demonstration projects over the coming months.

For further information on BME employment and the Government’s 2020 ambition contact Jeremy Crook, CEO, Black Training and Enterprise Group (BTEG) at


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