Gain skills, gain hope

The newly-opened 21K Digital Media and Technology Hub at Edmonton Green Shopping Centre aims to help local young people gain new skills
The newly-opened 21K Digital Media and Technology Hub at Edmonton Green Shopping Centre aims to help local young people gain new skills

Colin Lee-Own urges community leaders to work together to help give young people a brighter future

At a seminar in 2015, Enfield Council’s economic regeneration team laid out an employment and skills strategy for the borough, created to address poverty, unemployment, and a lack of educational and training opportunities.

The closure of vocational training providers, career advisors and guidance organisations that were located in Edmonton Green Shopping Centre during the 1990s had left local young people without a focal point where they could go to develop their digital and IT skills, which could prepare them to compete for jobs in the growing digital sector.

While the council’s 2015 strategy set out to tackle problems such as this, it remains the case that 30.5% of Edmonton Green ward residents have no qualifications. This statistic has remained static for several years.

As of November, the percentage of Edmonton residents claiming work-related benefits is at 11% compared with 8.5% and 7.5% in the Enfield North and Enfield Southgate constituency areas, respectively. The UK average is 6.3%.

An area’s rate of poverty and unemployment can be said to be closely linked to its levels of youth violence. Since 2008, 16 people have been murdered in Edmonton because of knife or gun crimes – knife crime in particular rose sharply in 2019, resulting in the area recording the second-highest rate of serious youth violence in London.

Having lived in Edmonton for 53 years, I have witnessed the decline of the area, from a prosperous place to live, to falling into the bottom 10% nationally for deprivation and crime. There is very little support for unemployed adults and young people living here, with few after-school activities available.

The failure of the council’s employment and skills strategy means that Edmonton has continued a downward spiral of unemployment and a deficit of education opportunities which, in turn, continues to lead to soaring crime levels.

I am incredibly disappointed that the employment and skills strategy was not prioritised. No wonder its aims were not met. Subsequently, the Covid-19 pandemic and the inevitable impact on the economy have exacerbated these issues as more struggling families are forced to rely on foodbanks.

Now more than ever, it is imperative that we set up an employment, training and skills working group with representatives from Enfield Council, schools and further education colleges, grassroots organisations, vocational training providers, and business group Enterprise Enfield. This will allow us to develop a local employment skills strategy and work in collaboration to implement and achieve our desired outcomes.

I strongly believe we have failed the residents of Edmonton, who have found themselves trapped in severe poverty for the last decade. This can be traced back to the lack of a holistic and collaborative approach between relevant stakeholders. I hope this changes soon.

Colin is the director of 21K Digital Media, a social enterprise that has recently established a digital media and technology hub at Edmonton Green Shopping Centre to offer local young people the opportunity to develop their skills. For more information:
Visit 21kdigitalmedia.com