What will it take for Tech City to hire locally?
08 March 2012
Much has been made of “Tech City”, the growing hub of high-tech firms clustered around Old Street in East London. Three months ago Prime Minister David Cameron applauded the growth of more than 600 technology firms in the area, and the opportunities these could provide. While Tech City is undoubtedly a driver of urban regeneration in Hackney, what exactly does this mean for local residents, and in particular, what does this mean for youth?
Yesterday’s roundtable discussion with the Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, Dianne Abbott, sought to address the question of increasing local youth engagement with Tech City. It is worth noting that Hackney is one of the most multi-ethnic boroughs in the country; BME groups represent roughly 40% of the population, and a quarter of the area’s overall population is of Black or Black British descent. It is understandable that Abbott would hope the labour pool which Tech City draws from would reflect this diversity, but it is not clear this will happen.
The event, Design and Tech City II: Local Skills and Young People, did highlight some innovative approaches to involving local youth in emerging technology-focused SMEs. Annie Blackmore, the Head Teacher of Hackney University Technical College (to be opened in September) spoke of local employers taking an active role in designing the school’s curriculum to better match the needs of the sector. Greater employer presence will be welcomed in the form of workshops for parents and young people, mentorships and guest lectures. Hopefully these will raise the profile of local SMEs and of the skills needed to pursue employment with them. Clive Tritton of Renaisi, a social enterprise in Shoreditch, also shared his organisation’s plans to pilot an apprenticeship programme seeking to pair local youth with paid placements in Tech City companies.
These initial steps being taken to harness the success of Tech City locally are encouraging. When considering how to address the growing numbers of NEETs, it is important to be mindful of the heterogeneity within a seemingly homogenous group of the disadvantaged. While Abbott’s figures on black youth unemployment may be contentious, the rate of unemployment within this group is the highest in the area - even when taking those in full-time education into account. A greater range of initiatives are needed to bridge the gap between youth and employers if we aspire to meet the needs of a spectrum of young people.
This event was organised by Policy Connect. For further information about Policy Connect please visit www.policyconnect.org.uk