Talent Match: A unique, evidence-led approach to tackling youth unemployment in Greater Manchester

Despite being a high-priority area for successive governments, youth unemployment remains a prominent concern. Even though the national youth unemployment claimant rate has reduced since its peak in 2011, a large proportion of 18 to 24 year olds continue to be unemployed for long periods of time, with an increasing number unemployed but not claiming benefits.

In Greater Manchester, just fewer than 11,000 18 to 24 year olds are currently out of work and claiming Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) or the unemployment-related element of Universal Credit (UC). Whilst the claimant rate has decreased in recent years (2011-2015), the unemployment rate of 16 to 24 years olds in Greater Manchester has been consistently higher than the UK unemployment rate for this age group, with 16 to 24 year olds currently almost three times as likely to be unemployed as all other age groups combined.

Far from homogenous, the characteristics of this group and their barriers to work are often complex and interlinked, and require individualised, holistic support.

Whilst myriads of welfare-to-work support systems are available, current interventions primarily identify and support young people claiming out-of-work benefits (through participant criteria). Those disengaged from the welfare state are therefore often excluded and receive limited economic or back-to-work support.

To bridge this gap, with funding from Big Lottery, twenty one Talent Match partnerships in England have been co-designed with young people over a five year period, including one in Greater Manchester. ‘Test and learn’ is a unique and fundamental aspect of the Talent Match programme meaning each partnership is able to trial new approaches to youth unemployment developing their offer and delivery in line with the local context and in response to the needs of local young people. Delivery is then evaluated and successful approaches identified (locally and nationally) and shared with other partnerships and stakeholders. This flexibility enables the programme to identify and subsequently fund successful approaches.

Launched in December 2013, Greater Manchester Talent Match aims to support young people who have not been in education, employment or training for twelve months or more, and who have experienced significant, and specific, barriers to employment. Differing from other Talent Match programmes, Greater Manchester Talent Match’ delivery model involves commissioning key workers (Talent Coaches) via a payment by results model.  The Talent Coaches support a small caseload of young people providing one-to-one, holistic support. Young people are encouraged to participate in training and/or work related activities, to enable them to move towards, and ultimately into, employment. By bringing together partnerships of employers, education providers, and third-sector organisations, Greater Manchester Talent Match also aims to boost opportunities for young people in each area and develop new pathways to employment.

As a lead partner in the Greater Manchester Talent Match partnership, New Economy’s role includes membership of the partnership board, and leading on linking Greater Manchester Talent Match to other key strategic bodies and initiatives. The Greater Manchester Talent Match Opportunities Hub is also developed and hosted by New Economy, providing a central, online resource for employment support, services and job opportunities.

New Economy is also responsible for the ongoing evaluation of the programme. Key findings to date from the evaluation include:

  • Bringing young people and employers together in an informal environment breaks down barriers between the two groups and challenges perceptions of one another. Including support workers in such events, further enables new networks and pathways to be built between those who support young people and employers, helping to support further employment opportunities for young people.
  • Payment models that operate on outcome-based payments should identify the scope for intermediate payment points rather than final outcomes alone. For example, with Greater Manchester Talent Match, many clients face a number of complex barriers to employment and a key element of the main programme is young people participating in work-related activities moving them towards sustainable employment. Talent Coaches thought however, that at least initially, there was too much financial emphasis within the programme on employment outcomes alone. This meant insufficient recognition was given to the importance of the young person’s development towards sustainable employment.The programme’s payment model has since been amended to reflect the findings by increasing intermediate payment points.
  • An online tool is an effective way of connecting clients seeking employment to employment support information, including both services and employment opportunities. To ensure its success, it is important to ensure that the tool is used by all relevant user groups, and developed in line with their specific needs.

Building on the evaluation to date, further research will be undertaken during the year including:

  • ascertaining how best to identify, reach and subsequently support ‘hidden’ young people to help them to become economically active;
  • identifying the extent to which volunteering increases young people’s employability; and
  • exploring the skill set and experience of Talent Coaches to identify if, and why, they may be best placed at supporting hard to reach young people.

Details of these and other Greater Manchester Talent Match research publications will be posted on the New Economy evaluation page.

For further information regarding the evaluation of Greater Manchester Talent Match, please contact Rebecca Edwards at New Economy. For further information regarding Greater Manchester Talent Match, please click here.

The Greater Manchester Talent Match partnership is led by Greater Manchester Centre for Voluntary Organisations and includes New Economy, Business in the Community, Greater Manchester Youth Network, private sector employers (The Co-operative Group and Addleshaw Goddard), the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Manchester Skills and Employment Partnership.