At a time when Britain is seeing a record number of young boys and men of African Caribbean heritage not reaching their full potential educationally or employment wise, there has never been a better time for an innovative, culturally responsive intervention and mentoring program created to address this social and human deficit. Which is why I was heartened to hear of a new programme being rolled out by the Black Training and Enterprise Group (BTEG).
Funded by the Big Lottery Fund and The Monument Trust for three years, Route 2 Success is a national role model programme aimed at tackling the many challenges young Black men face today in society, within education and the labour market. With the help of 30 professional Black male role models who will act as mentors, the group hope to raise aspirations in young Black males between age 11 to 25, to achieve their full potential in education, employment and self employment.
One of Route 2 Success key aims is to make young African-Caribbean males realise that they can be self employed and not have to rely on the labour market. While the programme will be based on traditional mentoring model criteria such as moral character, life skills and work ethic, there will be a strong emphasis on self entrepreneurship.
Route 2 Success Programme Manager, Brianna Cyrus told Hackney Hive: “One of the main things lacking with young black males is that they don’t realise they can actually work for themselves and be business men.”
With Boris Johnson’s much fanfared Black Boy Mentoring, yet seemingly going nowhere fast enough, could Route 2 Success make a difference in countering the effects of academic underachievement and social mobility amongst young Black males?
Cyrus explains: “There has been interest shown from men from a wide variety of back grounds including business men and a cross section of employees within the police service ranging from an HR director to officers”.
On Tuesday, 21 May, a recruitment reception will be held at BTEG’s office in Kings Cross for potential mentors and has the support of MP for North Hackney, Diane Abbott who told Hackney Hive: “Although more young black men are excelling in higher education, various professions and in business, far too many are still not reaching their full potential. This is why the BTEG Routes2Success (R2S) programme is so important.
“It is often said that “it takes a village to raise a child” and I believe it is our collective responsibility to encourage the young men in our community to do well. Therefore I am encouraging successful black men to volunteer their time as role models.”
BTEG says evidence from previous role model programmes showed that 83% of young people who listened to role models were inspired, they went away and thought more carefully about the need to plan their future and work hard at school and college. They also say young people want role models from similar backgrounds to interact with.
The group will work closely with schools, colleges, young offenders institutions, criminal justice system and pupil referral units.
Statistics speak for themselves:
- 42% of black Caribbean boys and 52% of African boys achieved 5 GCSEs A*-C including Maths and English in 2010/11 compared to 55% for the total male cohort
- Only 3% of apprentices in England in 2010/11 were black
- 44% of young black people who were available for work in the 12 months to September 2012 were unemployed, compared with 24% of all young people
- 16% of young people detained in Young Offender Institutions in England and Wales in 2011/12 were black.
However despite much hand wringing and wide coverage on the failings of young Black men by the media, one of BTEG’s biggest challenges has been receiving coverage from many mainstream outlets such as the Guardian, who so far have ignored requests from the group.
Another high profile person who is encouraging accomplished Black men to consider volunteering their time, is MP for Tottenham David Lammy. Tottenham born and raised Lammy who earned a law degree from Harvard is himself the product of a home with an absentee father. He endorsed the programme and shared his thoughts on the impact mentoring could have with Hackney Hive saying: “Quality mentoring can mean the difference between a wrong decision and a right decision.
“BTEG’s mentoring programme is special in that it encourages young men to aspire, not simply just to remain on the straight and narrow.
“This is a scheme that provides mentors who excel in their given field and challenge young Black men to achieve in education, employment and enterprise.”
Recruitment Reception details:
Tuesday 21st May 2013, 6.30-8pm.
BTEG office, 200 Pentonville Road,
London N1 9JP