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CAS blog: Talent Match – successfully changing young people’s lives

by Rachael Warner and Steven Skippen
Youth Advocates – Talent Match at Community Action Suffolk

After starting with Community Action Suffolk on 20th January 2014, Steve and I hit the ground running with Talent Match New Anglia going live only 2 days later. The Talent Match programme had been in the pipeline for quite some time, following the Big Lottery research into youth unemployment, and finally it was time to start putting together the pieces of the puzzle.

“But what is Talent Match?” I hear you ask. Excellent question! Talent Match is a new programme to help young people aged 18-24 who are long-term NEET (not in education, employment or training). Following the Big Lottery’s youth consultation, the programme was developed listening to young people’s ideas about how to tackle youth unemployment and the support they need.

The programme has been designed by young people, for young people and we work with them to break down the barriers they feel are preventing them from finding work, including funding for things such as training and transport, work experience and more soft targets such as building confidence and self esteem.

“The greatest satisfaction from this programme is watching a young person’s whole outlook on things change”

Well here we are, 6 months into the Talent Match programme and what a few months it’s been. There have been some ups and downs along the way, but in general it’s been a fantastic start. After attending various meetings with different people within the programme, it was time to get the show on the road. Starting in post with only the official job description to relate to was the first challenge (so to speak), there was a need to start building contacts in the area and start promoting the Talent Match name. Through local knowledge and the attending of events, a list of contacts was soon compiled along with training providers, self development workshops and cluster group meetings to name but a few. In Lowestoft, there is the added bonus of a seconded placement from within the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), which has proven to be exceptional and an excellent working relationship has developed. And in Ipswich there is an Outreach Assistant working with us from The Prince’s Trust. Again, an excellent relationship has been formed and this is proving to be invaluable. Many young people have signed up to the programme and we have had some very positive outcomes to date including; full time jobs, work experience placements and a 6 month joint employment placement with the DWP wage incentive scheme. These are just some of this type of outcome, but we think the best results thus far are seeing the change in the young people themselves. Some of them have really turned a corner since being on the programme and the boost to their self confidence has been amazing. In just this short time, you would not believe that they are the same person.

“The one thing we believe that sets Talent Match apart from similar programmes is the time we can spend with the young people.”

Admittedly, it is not for everyone and inevitably some have chosen to go it alone. It is not for the want of trying but some young people, even though they may be unemployed, in fact lead very chaotic lives and just cannot or are currently in a place where they feel unable to commit to the programme. Yes, we may not be working with these young people for now, but the door will always remain open for them if and when circumstances change. The one thing we believe that sets Talent Match apart from similar programmes is the time we can spend with the young people. We can dedicate as much or as little time as is required. The benefit of this is that the more time we spend with an individual, the more that young person comes to realise that there is in fact someone who genuinely wants to help and will listen to them. Other programmes are heavily target driven. Talent Match does have targets of course, but these are far more realistic than others. This gives us the flexibility to steer the young person in a way that they probably never thought possible when dealing with other organisations. Given the right circumstances, the doors we can open for these young people surprises even them. Without a doubt, the greatest satisfaction from this programme is watching a young person’s whole outlook on things change and seeing them genuinely enjoy the personal touch. You can just tell when a person is 100% interested which is great for the young people, but even more satisfying for us, the Advocates.

For even more successes, we need your help!

We aim to get young people into work experience placements and for this we need willing employers. Employers who will take a risk and go the extra mile. Employers who believe in young people and the value they can bring to business and the workplace. Employers who want to help young people develop. We are looking for employers to provide our young people with a 4 week work experience placement where they get to experience the real ‘world of work’ and develop as part of a team. This is an opportunity to mould the future workforce and to help them grow.

If you are a business owner or manager, or you are able to discuss work experience opportunities, we would urge you to please get in contact. Alternatively, if you know someone who may be interested, please let them know about Talent Match and encourage them to get in touch.

If you would like to find out more about the Talent Match programme, please get in touch.