Talent Match

Talent Match conference

Talent Match was a five-year, £108 million National Lottery funded programme which supported young people along the road to employment.

Aims & approach

Talent Match was an innovative employment programme that boosted the opportunities of nearly 26,000 young people aged 18-24 who needed extra support to help them along the path to sustainable employment, of these, 46% secured a job.

As well as helping young people to find work, the programme provided individual with the skills and resilience needed to navigate a fulfilling career.

Talent Match recognised that different people needed different levels of support to gain employment. The programme had a particular focus on helping young people who had been long term unemployed and faced significant and multiple barriers to employment, such as parenting or caring responsibilities, mental health, disability or a lack of education, to find career opportunities

The Talent Match Partnerships worked with individuals to tailor support according to their needs and aspirations, which included wellbeing and mental health support, as well as practical help.


Talent Match took place in 21 Local Enterprise Partnership areas across England. Talent Match partnerships operated in some of all of each area, concentrating on localities with higher youth unemployment and where there were significant opportunities to add value.

Each delivery partnership was led by a voluntary or community led organisation, but brought together young people, employers, statutory agencies, education providers and charities.

People in the Lead

Talent Match was initiated by, co-designed and delivered with young people. Learning from the programme was shared at a national and international level throughout the lifetime of the programme, as our partnerships and young people sought to contribute to policy and practice.

Young people sat as equal partners on decision-making boards at local partnerships and were involved in all aspects of the programme, from design to implementation, including selection of staff and providers, and carrying out research and evaluations of services.



To measure the social and economic impact of Talent Match, we commissioned an Evaluation and Learning contract, led by the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) at Sheffield Hallam University, with its partners; the University of Birmingham, the University of Warwick and Cambridge Economic Associates.

The evaluation tracked the journey of all the young people on the Talent Match programme, and assessed the support models provided by the partnerships to understand what works and why when supporting disadvantaged young people into employment. It also draws together lessons for future policy and practice. The final evaluation reports completed in June 2020 include:

1. Talent Match Evaluation: A Final Assessment

  • provides a final summary of the key findings from the evaluation; and
  • draws together what the programme achieved and sets out lessons for future policy and practice.

2. Talent Match Evaluation: Understanding the Impact and Value of Talent Match

  • assesses the difference Talent Match has made in relation to young people’s progression in employment;
  • considers the extent to which the outcomes are a result of the programme; and
  • assesses the value for money and set out the costs and financial benefits of the programme.

3. Talent Match Evaluation: Comparative Report

  • explores the design of Talent Match and locates the programme in the context of wider employment policy and programmes; and
  • compares the design of Talent Match to the Work Programme, the most prominent, publicly funded source of unemployment services to young people.

There is also a supporting technical appendix which sets out the approach and data collection methodology.

All of the evaluation reports can be found on the Talent Match Evaluation reporting pages. They are accompanied by a blog, written by the Evaluation Director, setting out the urgent lessons from Talent Match to support the Covid-19 crisis.

Talent Match was a very different approach to youth employment, focused on the needs, talents and aspirations of each individual young person, and heavily focused on those furthest from the labour market.

A total of 25,885 young people were supported by Talent Match. Of these, 11,940 (46 per cent) secured some form of job, including 4,479 (17 per cent) who secured sustained employment for more than 6 months or self employment for more than 12 months.

Talent Match involved young people both at the design stage of the national programme and in the development of the 21 separate regional partnerships. This person-centred approach has proved as valuable for its effects on wellbeing as its economic benefits and shown the importance of effective local partnerships in tackling complex social and economic challenges.

Learning highlighted in the evaluation reports from the experience of Talent Match, includes:

  • The involvement of young people improved the quality of service provided and increased the programme’s innovation and legitimacy. Lessons in co-production can be drawn from Talent Match for future practice
  • The value of person-centred approaches and high-quality key-working relationships, were found to be crucial to initial and ongoing engagement
  • Talent Match was an explicitly voluntary sector led programme, the breadth and influence of partnerships demonstrated that voluntary and community sector organisations are effective leaders of cross-sector partnerships
  • Rather than generalise as to the barriers young people faced and offer a one size fits all, the programme took an approach which focused on the needs, talents and aspirations of each young person
  • Talent Match helped support participants to improve their wellbeing: 70 per cent of those who gained a job reported improved life satisfaction; and 60 per cent for those who did not gain a job. Talent Match participants moving into work reported high levels of job satisfaction
  • Talent Match had a test and learn ethos enabling programmes to be responsive and change the ways services and activities were delivered during their lifetime
  • Young people were positive about the voluntary nature of Talent Match, which also enabled Talent Match to reach out to a more diverse range of young people
  • Young people with often multiple needs continue to face significant barriers in entering employment, including low levels of wellbeing and poor mental health.
  • Talent Match provides examples of how young people can be positively supported at a local level and confirms that this support for some needs to be provided over the long term

Interim Learning and Reports

More than 1,500 young people were involved in the running and leadership of the Talent Match projects. As a result, during the lifetime of the programme, we found a number of proven and promising practices from across the Talent Match Partnerships. These interim insights are outlined in three key areas:


Talent Match was recognised as one of the 22 promising practices in the field of youth work by the European Commission. The programme has been cited in two new European Commission publications:


Talent Match continues to be offered through 3 Sustainability Programmes:

Talent Match Black Country

Talent Match Black Country works in partnership with unemployed young adults, aged 17-29, who have direct experience of offending and those who face disadvantage and are furthest from the labour market, to help them achieve:

  • Increased confidence, optimism and resilience.
  • Reduced levels and avoidance of re-offending.
  • Progress nearer and into sustainable employment.

The project provides community based ‘safe places’ where young adults can go to receive intensive mentoring support as well as accessing information, advice, guidance and a wide range of bespoke support packages. Each young adult is allocated a Mentor who provides solution focused and transformational support to help them identify and overcome their barriers to moving forward and cease their offending behaviour, with the ultimate aim of moving into employment or self-employment

Talent Match Liverpool

Liverpool City Region Talent Match programme unlocks the potential and talent of NEET young people aged 16-29 who are furthest away from the labour market.

The project works with young people with multiple barriers including mental health issues, disabilities (including neuro-diverse), homelessness or insecurely housed, offenders/ex-offenders, young parents, those with low educational attainment and low self-esteem. Support is provided through an integrated health and wellbeing approach and therapeutic programme, including intensive mentoring. Equipping participants with confidence, resilience, knowledge, and skills to overcome barriers, to support them into meaningful employment, education, or training.

This Ability (Hull and East Riding)

This-Ability aims to support young people with a disability, learning disability/difficulty or a long term health/mental health condition into sustainable employment.

This project provides specialist support and training for young people to access work and learning, giving young people the opportunity to explore and experience specific occupational sectors, with job opportunities, within the Hull and East Riding area. Participants will complete an ‘Employability Passport’. This Ability also supports Employers to gain the Disability Confident Kite Mark and provides a unique, bespoke mentoring package to employers who recruit individuals from the This-Ability project (Making our Business Yours – MOBY).

Each programme has built on their experience of Talent Match and continue to evolve based upon the principles of co-production with young people and high-quality key working relationships.

  • Black Country: Wolverhampton Voluntary Sector Council

    Black Country: Wolverhampton Voluntary Sector Council

  • Humber: Humber Learning Consortium – This Ability

    Humber: Humber Learning Consortium – This Ability

  • Liverpool City Region: Merseyside Youth Association

    Liverpool City Region: Merseyside Youth Association