On Wednesday 28th September, during National Inclusion Week 2022, leaders from across Construction, Finance and Technology and a cohort of young Black men came together at the iconic headquarters of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors in Westminster.
The aim: to connect and share insights, and to understand the steps being taken by London’s employers to support young Black men aged 16 – 24 into employment. This is a group that is facing significant and disproportionate structural barriers to employment, and some of the highest unemployment rates in the capital .
Wednesday’s event entitled A Journey Towards Inclusion: Young, Black and Talented, was a unique collaboration between the Mayor of London’s Workforce Integration Network and Moving on Up (Action for Race Equality’s ground-breaking employment initiative for young Black men). It was generously sponsored by DiverseCity Surveyors and formed a practical drive to tackle this deep-rooted issue.
The afternoon kicked off with a full house of over 120 guests, including representatives from Balfour Beatty, HS2, TfL, Wates Group, Thames Water Fat Beehive, Jacobs, Kier, Lendlease and Berkeley Group.
Part I began with a panel discussion and audience Q&A covering a range of topics such as leadership priorities, taking positive action, the role of data and measuring success, the intersections between race and class, and how networking should be rethought to ensure equal access to connections and opportunities. The discussion was deftly co-chaired by Bola Abisogun OBE (Founder of DiverseCity Surveyors, and Moving on Up’s advisory chair), and Sayid Sharif (a Moving on Up Ambassador), and took questions from young Black men in the audience.
The speakers were:
- Jeremy Crook OBE, Chief Executive Officer of Action for Race Equality
- Rebecca Scott, Global Talent Resourcing Program Manager at Jacobs
- Poonam Flammarion, Head of Talent, at Cloudreach
- Keifer Royal, a Moving on Up Ambassador and Data Analyst
“We all have a leadership shadow. For every step you take forwards, look behind you and see who is following. You want to look back, and give support, mentoring, shadowing and other opportunities to help others move forwards too”
Rebecca Scott, Jacobs
“Diversity leads to more successful outcomes. Work needs to be done both internally and externally constantly for organisations to change the employment landscape. We need to think long term, and we will see the returns.”
Poonam Flammarion, Cloudreach
“Companies often look at the short term benefit. As a young Black man, I want change to happen now, in the immediate present, so that future cohorts coming through will truly see diversity in the workplace at all levels.”
Keifer Royal, Moving on Up
“Without leadership’s buy in, it is very difficult to change the landscape of employment and move the conversation forwards. We need senior leaders to do better in focusing on monitoring and tracking workforce representation”
Jeremy Crook OBE, Action for Race Equality
Jeremy Crook OBE also announced an upcoming top tips resource, created with insider tips from Moving on Up’s Employers Champions Group, to help young people prepare for interviews both online and in person.
The discussion was followed by a keynote speech by guest speaker, Dr Debbie-Weekes Bernard, Deputy Mayor of Communities and Social Justice who energised the room with her heartfelt support for the Moving on Up and Workforce Integration Network Programmes, and the necessity of putting inclusion on the agenda across London’s companies and institutions. We thank Debbie for standing by the initiative and the work of voluntary and community organisations working in this space.
ARE Deputy Executive, Tebussum Rashid and Deputy Mayor Dr. Debbie-Weekes Bernard standing by a resource featured in A Journey Towards Inclusion. Photo by Luke Agbaimoni.
The afternoon also featured the soft launch of the Digital Twin Skills Academy, by founders Bola Abisogun OBE and Joseph Michael Daniels. This project aims to make training and knowledge about the built environment more accessible, by offering young people the chance to engage and collaborate across disciplines.
Discover more information on Digital Twins on the RICS website.
A key highlight from the afternoon for young people and employers alike was a moving performance by Tottenham poet Giovanni Rose (Poetry Society’s Foyle Young Poet, 2021), who shared two brand new poems crafted especially to speak to A Journey Towards Inclusion.
They were a sombre reminder that being able to be your authentic self was not just a nice to have, but a matter of survival and livelihood.
And all throughout the afternoon, successes were also given prominence. Examples of best practice when it comes to workplace inclusion by HS2, Cloudreach, Profusion, Jacobs, and CITB were on display in an exclusive exhibition at RICS. They highlighted the personal journeys taken by young Black men such as such as Keon Simms (pictured below) at Jacobs, alongside the changes made by their employers.
Photographs by Luke Agbaimoni also formed a visual reminder of the energy, creativity and diversity that all the young men brought with them as they made their careers in the capital.
Keon Simms (right) with Tony Hyland MBE (DWP)
The activities of A Journey Towards Inclusion: Young, Black and Talented ended with roundtable discussions between young people and employers, where opportunities and pathways across Construction, Finance and Tech were shared. It was a chance to meet and network freely, and discover potential job roles and work experience placements in a supportive and constructive space.
We left with the words of one young man, Arthur Ntale (Investment Analyst at Veritas) ringing strong: “you can never outgrow your community.”. Wednesday was a testament to this message: supporting young Black men to reach their potential is a shared responsibility, and one that we need to play a part in.
Header photo by Raj Gedhu
We are grateful to all who contributed to A Journey Towards Inclusion: Young, Black and Talented including Moving on Up’s Employer Champions Group, its funders (City Bridge Trust and Trust for London), DiverseCity Surveyors and RICS. Special thanks to the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and his Workforce Integration Network, for sharing a personalised message of support to attendees.
 There are around 90,000 young men in London from Black and mixed ethnic groups. This represents around 18 per cent or nearly 1 in 5 of all young men in London (Greater London Authority Population projections – 2021). Young Black men have some of the highest unemployment rates in London, regardless of educational attainment.
In 2021, 35% of young Black men in London who were available for and actively seeking work were unemployed, compared with 15% of young white men in London. (APS, Dec 21)
For more information contact:
Payal Bhavsar, ARE Communications and Engagement Officer