Empowering Edmonton’s Digital Natives

During the 70s, when I was only a young man, jobs were plentiful in Edmonton. Over 60% of the residents were employed by the many factories in the manufacturing hub, and the community progressed. However, in the 80s and 90s, the area lost its manufacturing industries and the Borough was reclassified as a deprived socioeconomic ward. In an effort to re-establish some level of stability, especially in Eastern Enfield, assistance was sought from Europe. The European Social Funding allowed social entrepreneurs, like me, to set up community-led projects to assist long term unemployed residents. The newly formed cluster of organisations provided a wide range of training and mentorship assisting many disenfranchised young people who went on to gain access to employment or further education. The organisation I founded, AD 2000 Productions, helped over 300 unemployed young people, living in Enfield and neighbouring Boroughs at the time, gain ICT  and media production skills. With new skills, they were able to secure their first job after being long term unemployed.

Decades on, Enfield is still severely affected by high unemployment rates, and crime in the area continues to increase. The Enfield People statistics, reported that Edmonton is the most deprived area in Enfield with Edmonton Green, Upper Edmonton and Lower Edmonton ranked first to third respectively for most deprived wards. The same analysis also reported that the three Edmonton wards are within the 10% most deprived in all of England. Enfield is also ranked eighth in London for knife crimes, recording 618 offences. In the year ending April 2019, knife-related crimes increased by 4.2% in Enfield compared to London where there has been a decrease of 0.9% in the same period. The socioeconomic state of Enfield is once again under attack and it is the responsibility of us social entrepreneurs to find solutions to our community’s problems as we had in the past. However, it is important that the presented solutions are in line with the expected change in the world around us.

There is a cluster of digital media and tech companies in these areas but BAME young people are not equipped with the adequate skills to take up the opportunities being created in this digital world. Like their white counterparts, BAME young people are digital natives. Born or growing up in the new computerized technological world one would think that they have equal skills and access to their white counterparts. However, that is not the case.  Apprenticeship, which is the Government’s flagship for individuals to learn new skills that employers need while receiving a wage, does not present equal opportunity for all young people. BAME are less successful in their apprenticeship applications with success rates extremely low in sectors like Information and Communication Technology where 31.6% of BAME applied but only 3.7% were successful. The same applies to the Arts, Media and Publishing apprenticeships applications; where 29.8% of BAME applied but only 8.0% were successful. The statistics below demonstrate that BAME are far less likely to secure an apprenticeship for roles in professions with good economical rewards and growth opportunities and form part of the new world they are living in.

Digital skills are increasingly vital to everyone’s lives. It is estimated that around 90% of all jobs over the next 20 years will require some level of digital skills. Automation Artificial Intelligence and robots are replacing repetitive tasks, making the need for employing millions of human beings redundant. Manufacturing and many other industries will no longer have the need for employing people in the same way they did and do now. It is therefore essential that digital natives, from a diverse background, are given the opportunity to equip themselves with the most UpToDate digital and soft skills that are essential to the jobs in the growing digital world or to start their own businesses.

We have a team of digital media and technology specialists that are working mainly to write, develop and deliver industry-based digital media and technology a curriculum. Our efforts will ensure that the training we deliver is proficiently tailored to help our clients compete for digital media and ICT apprenticeships successfully. We endeavor to increase the number of digital apprentices in Edmonton and develop strong partnerships with tech employers. We believe there is a direct correlation between crime and unemployment and therefore the crime rate in our community will also begin to decrease when unemployment does.

Thank you for reading my blog. To join the conversation and keep UpToDate on our plans, follow us on twitter @21kdigitalmedia  

Published by Colin Lee-Own -Founder of 21KDigital Media & Technology Centre 



You can also view my previous work here.

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