Black Country Talent Match

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Talent Match

By Professor Peter Wells

Peter is Professor of Public Policy Analysis and Evaluation at Sheffield Hallam University and is based at the Centre for Economic and Social Research (CRESR).

The Big Lottery Fund is investing £108million in Talent Match, its innovative programme designed to address the problems of high levels of unemployment amongst 18-24 year olds.

Three key features of Talent Match are:

  • young people are at the heart of the programme designing and delivering projects
  • it is delivered locally, through the voluntary and community sector
  • the programme’s goal is not just to create jobs, but support the most disadvantaged gain fulfilling employment

Why is this approach different, and why does it matter?

Although youth unemployment has fallen in the first quarter of 2014 (868,000 young people aged 16-24 were unemployed in January to March 2014, down 48,000 on the previous quarter and down 90,000 on the previous year), this still means that 19 percent of 16-24 year olds are unemployed. Nearly a quarter of million young people have been out of work for more than a year.

The impact of youth unemployment is geographically uneven: it is more highly concentrated in the older industrial areas of the United Kingdom, such as the Midlands and northern England. There are two main consequences of persistently high levels of youth unemployment:

  • in the short term competition for jobs becomes more intense with job seekers tending to ‘trade down’ making it even harder for those with few or no qualifications to find work
  • but in the long term we know that a period of unemployment, or repeated cycling through low paid jobs and unemployment, have long term effects on wellbeing and income levels – what is known as wage scaring.

Some have labelled 16-24 year olds as a ‘lost generation’. Why is this the case?

  • The effects of recession and downturn were felt harder on 18-24 year olds than older generations
  • There are also some longer term problems at play – since the late 1990s young people have struggled more to find employment than in previous periods, regardless of whether the economy is growing or not
  • And finally, there are maybe one million 16-24 year olds than at any point since 1990. This has helped drive the intensification of job search.

Evidence from previous programmes suggest that certain approaches, done well, bring positive results. These include, job search, and Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) and Intermediate Labour Markets (ILMs). Other approaches such as enterprise support or volunteering work well in more specific circumstances and with particular groups. Moreover, a prerequisite for success is that approaches are coordinated and focused on the needs of each young person in relation to local labour market circumstances. This is where young-people led projects and partnership approaches are important and are identified as key components of Talent Match.

These approaches are probably all necessary and may well point the way to new successful approaches being identified. However, alone they are unlikely to be sufficient. This would require more concerted approaches to generate jobs, support for the most disadvantaged localities, and approaches which lead to fulfilling employment for the long term youth unemployed.

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