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New mayors’ initiative to give black jobseekers a boost

SHINING EXAMPLE: Chris Achiampong

BLACK SCHOOL leavers and graduates are to be the focus of a major new initiative which aims to boost their chances of getting top jobs.

The mayors of Greater Manchester, London, Bristol, Birmingham and Leicester will work with the Government to create promising career paths for BAME young people in a range of industries by encouraging them to apply for apprenticeships.

The cities’ respective elected leaders - Andy Burnham, Sadiq Khan, Marvin Rees, Andy Street, who represents the whole West Midlands region, and Peter Soulsby – have expressed their commitment to helping this group take advantage of the career prospects that apprenticeships offer.

Among the major national employers supporting the project are B&Q, Rolls-Royce and the BBC. The initiative will also target parents who are often doubtful about the value of apprenticeships by focusing on the message that they provide a fast track in well-paid jobs as well as the opportunity to earn while studying for qualifications.

According to recent figures from the House of Commons library, BAME youth unemployment rose by 50 per cent between 2010 and 2015, raising fears that a generation of young people are not being given the opportunity to fulfil their potential. Andy Burham will lead efforts in Greater Manchester to reach a 16 per cent increase in BAMEM apprenticeship representation.

He said: “We want to be known for fairness, equality and inclusion – a place where that everyone can get on in life and get into work, whatever your circumstances, background or aspirations. That's why I'm proud that Greater Manchester is part of a pilot that's going to celebrate the diversity of our region."

SUPPORT

Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Anne Milton said: "I'm thrilled by the strong support we have received for this project. It's great to be working together on our drive to make sure that everyone, whatever their background, can get on to an apprenticeship at whatever level suits them.

"Apprenticeships are a great route into skilled employment and allow people to earn while they learn. We want it to be easy as possible to get on an apprenticeship, so that everyone can benefit from the excellence career prospects that apprenticeships offer."

Among those who have benefited from a degree apprenticeship is Chris Achiampong, 23, from Newham, east London. As a teenager he had set his sights on a career in football after joining the Arsenal academy. However, when that dream ended due to injury, Achiampong was forced to reconsider what he wanted to do with his life.

He had been offered a place to study economics at Loughborough University, but turned it down to join a rotation degree apprenticeship program offered by IBM, much to the disappointment of his Ghanaian family.

"When I told my family I was going to do an apprenticeship, they thought I was going to become an electrician and thought my academic background was going to go to wast," Achiampong recalled.

"But I believe in the power of apprenticeships and the power of work experience and I just don't believe that in life you should do something because your parents are telling you to or your teachers or friends are telling you to do it.

"We're in a changing market and the days of thinking that if you go to university you are guaranteed a job are over. There are a lot of graduates who can’t get a job, and if they do have a job they can’t find one in the field they want to be in. But with a degree apprenticeship, your course is fully paid for, you don’t end up with a debt and there’s the security of a job at the end of it.”

The former Arsenal academy player continued: “These days even a first class degree from a Russell Group university isn’t enough any-ore because employers are saying graduates are not job-ready.”

However, the TUC’s Wilf Sullivan said that while encouraging young BAME apprenticeships was to be welcomed, attention had to be paid to their quality. He told The Voice: “While we’re generally supportive of apprenticeships, they’ve got to be good quality. We see them as jobs, not just a training scheme.

“According to our research, BAME apprentices were far less likely to be employed than white apprentices, in the region of three to one. If you don’t try and address the discrimi- nation that’s already existing in the workplace all you do is perpetuate the problem.”

Reflecting the importance of the issue, this week’s edition of The Voice features a special apprenticeship supplement.

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