Young black men want to be judged on merit not stereotypes, says research

8 July 2014

Research published by the Black Training and Enterprise Group (BTEG) reveals the views of 200 young black men about their experiences of finding work in the capital.

Young black men have a higher unemployment rate than any other group of young people and the research shows that they have mixed but mainly poor experiences of support from Jobcentre Plus and Work Programme providers. They also feel isolated from their peers and unsupported in their efforts to ‘do the right thing’

Young black men in London believe that racism and negative stereotyping are the main reasons for their high unemployment rate. They also believe that black male business role models in their communities are important and access to social and professional networks would improve their employment opportunities.

‘Because black males are not shown in the best way in the public eye – people stereotype them in gangs and this affects black males chances of getting a job.’ (Young black male survey respondent)

‘As soon as you get in the interview room you can see from their faces that you are not going to get the job’ (Young black male, discussion group participant, Lambeth)

‘Society needs to change. People need to stop thinking that all black men are gang members (Young black male, discussion group participant, Haringey)

The report’s action plan contains 21 suggestions in four key areas:

Establishing a common goal. The goal should be to increase employment rates for young black men so that there is no disparity between young black men and all other young men
Improving support for young black male job seekers. This requires localised and personalised support delivered by advisers who understand the barriers and who care about getting young black men into work.
Creating more pathways into employment for young black men. We need to create more networks and pathways through which young black men can meet employers, gain work experience, develop career aspirations, secure employment and set up their own business.
Challenging the negative stereotypes which society attaches to young black men. We need to help employers to recognise these stereotypes for what they are and to avoid making recruitment decisions which are influenced by these.

Jeremy Crook OBE, Director of BTEG, says: ‘It is unacceptable that third generation young black men hold similar views to previous generations about their experiences in the job market. The young men that participated in the study want to work and are applying for jobs but they feel that employers are unduly influenced by the negative stereotypes that surround young black men and shape employers perceptions. We need to create more positive portrayals of young black men in the media and amongst employers’

‘It is important that we now focus on working with employers and find ways to ensure that their recruitment results are not being influenced by the negative stereotypes of young black men as criminals or in gangs. We encourage London companies to look at their workforces and make sure that the odds are not stacked against young black men trying to secure employment. This may mean tackling unconscious bias in their recruitment processes‘

The research was commissioned by Trust for London which is launching a new grants programme aimed at helping young black men into work.

Bharat Mehta, CEO of Trust for London says: ‘The gap between unemployment rates for young black men and young white men is a long standing and persistent issue but in recent years the gap has grown. This is despite improved educational outcomes, with even black university graduates twice as likely to be unemployed as their white counterparts.’

‘Whilst some good work is being done, much more needs to happen – the fact that young black men have higher unemployment rates than all other groups of young people is something that needs to change. That is why Trust for London has launched a new grants programme aimed at helping young black men into work. We hope that the Trust’s resources will be a catalyst for enabling more young black men into employment.’