Future city leaders from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities have been challenged by Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, to work with him to inspire young people to pursue education, training or employment.
The challenge was laid down by the Mayor during a meeting with 17 young professionals from BME communities at City Hall on Wednesday 17 August.
Those who attended came from across Bristol’s business, charity, culture and education sectors, nearly half being business owners. The Mayor was quizzed on his vision for developing skills and talent amongst BME communities and heard the thoughts of his guests on how opportunities to attain skills and knowledge could be improved.
The group discussed the challenges faced by young BME professionals such as a need for networking opportunities and services to support them when they do enter the world of work.
Led by the Mayor, those present put forward ideas on how young people could help to create better networks and pathways to employment for their peers.
Attendees drew parallels between the challenges they face and issues many young disadvantaged white communities face when trying to access education, training or employment.
Speaking at the event, the Mayor said: “I called this meeting to speak directly to a handful of inspirational young talents, to ask them to work with me in inspiring a new generation of innovators, businesspeople, educators, artists and volunteers. I wanted to hear what tools they think our communities need to succeed in accessing education, training and employment.
“One of the things people regularly tell me is that Bristol’s diversity is the thing they love most about our city. I agree with them. It is one of our greatest strengths but we don’t always make the most of the creativity and talent that our diverse population offers.
“My role as Mayor is to work with other city leaders to build a fair and equitable city that benefits all communities. We also need leaders in those communities to inspire their peers and work with us to increase opportunities for young people and tackle the challenges they face.”
Bristol has a diverse school population with 33% of schoolchildren coming from BME communities. The city’s rate of young BME people not in education, training or employment (NEET) has steadily decreased over the past seven years to just below 12%. However, almost 7.7% of Bristol’s BME population are unemployed compared to 4.2% of the city’s White British.
This is one reason why Michelle Sergeant, Head of Dance at Oasis John Williams Academy & Director of Angels Dance Academy thinks that it’s time to speak directly to young people in the city’s BME communities about skills and talent development.
Speaking after the meeting, Michelle said: “It’s clear that whilst opportunities for young people from BME communities have improved, there is more to be done to help the next generation. I am delighted to take up the Mayor’s challenge and am grateful for this opportunity to share my thoughts on how we can inspire others to achieve their ambitions. I see this as a chance to share my experiences with others and see what can be achieved through hard work and taking opportunities to develop.”