Opinion

How businesses can help young people make the most of their potential

Based at the heart of East London for 30 years, ELBA has excelled in linking business and communities to open up opportunities for brighter futures. CEO Ian Parkes explains how this has been achieved – and how plans are shaping up for the next three decades

Celebrating our 30th anniversary this year, ELBA (East London Business Alliance) is a charity with a focus on supporting East London by bringing together business and community to create brighter futures for young people and all.

Established in 1989 as the East London Partnership by a group of business leaders who were concerned about the levels of poverty and inequality in East London, the focus of the organisation was on the boroughs of Hackney, Newham and Tower Hamlets. Changing our name in 1993 to the East London Business Alliance – ELBA – we set up formally as a limited company and charity.

Originally based at the Truman Brewery, then relocating to Abbey Mills Pumping station – Sir Joseph Bazalgette’s magnificent 19th-century sewage system fondly referred to as ‘The Cathedral of Sewage’ – ELBA has remained at the heart of East London, we are still going strong (and in a nicer office space too!).

We want to spread the word about the good that business can do in supporting young people to make the most of their potential

Over the last three decades, the organisation’s focus has been to draw on the talent, resources and workforce of Canary Wharf and City of London businesses to help meet local needs through employee volunteering and support. We now have over 70 members from business and public bodies, and we operate in nine boroughs, covering 25 per cent of London’s population.

We have a unique experience of understanding young local people – their challenges and opportunities – and the business world, and how to connect the two. Utilising the expertise of business volunteers and the resources they can access, ELBA creates programmes to unlock the potential of young people.

ELBA member businesses have had a big impact, with an estimated 200,000+ employees choosing to give their time and expertise to support the young people, residents and communities of East London and beyond.

We want to spread the word about the good that business can do in supporting young people to make the most of their potential and to get into good opportunities, at a time when the employability of our young people is critically important and concern about serious youth violence is high. We speak more about this on the following pages.

We are working with employers to upskill and better prepare the most vulnerable – those in lower-skilled roles

Walking around and looking at the place, East London has changed immensely over the last 30 years, with the creation of a whole new business district at Canary Wharf; new retail and business quarter at Westfield Stratford City; the legacy of the London Games; and record levels of investment, with improvements to transport links (Jubilee extension, DLR, Overground, CrossRail). Outwardly, East London is a far cry from the area it used to be.

However, it still has the densest concentration of areas with high levels of households in poverty: 53 per cent of children in Tower Hamlets live in poverty, and 35+ per cent in Newham, Hackney, Islington, Barking and Dagenham and Waltham Forest.

Community and social infrastructure is under pressure with the public sector not able to maintain previous levels of support. There are high levels of concern about mental health, including among children; poverty has shifted from workless households to households with people working two or three jobs to make ends meet; and knife crime is clearly a real concern for young people across London and beyond. We are working with employers to upskill and better prepare the most vulnerable – those in lower-skilled roles. Future Fit is an Accenture-funded project that supports those most at risk from the Fourth Industrial Revolution in the facilities management sector.

We are always looking at trends and challenges for East London and creating projects to address them. It’s a big task – but the past 30 years show that businesses and partners in the community are up for the challenge of working with ELBA to help provide brighter futures for our young people.

Thank you to our sponsors T. Rowe Price for supporting us in the development of this content and ongoing partnerships

For more information about opportunities with ELBA contact Andrea Rannard-Lambert BrighterFutures@elba-1.org.uk or 020 7068 6960 or visit their website.

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