Youth employment

Talent Match conference

Lessons for policy and programme design

Young People should be set up on a long-term sustainable pathway

Those furthest from the labour market require a whole range of specialist support

  • Young people are experts in their own lives: use this expertise to inform your policy and practice
  • Understand your target audience of young people; not only their needs and barriers to engaging them, but also their strengths, wishes and aspirations
  • Start building relationships with local employers as early as possible
  • Address the root causes of problems that are barriers to employment and start with basic needs
  • Guide young people through their journey into/towards employment or make sure you are providing a seamless pathway of services
  • Consider what different partners can bring in to the table, and the consequences of leaving them out
  • Voluntary organisations, like youth organisations and community groups, can lead large, strategic youth employment partnerships
  • The quality and ‘fit’ of first jobs and placements matter
  • In-work support improves retention
  • Key work approaches built around youth-work principles are a powerful way to reach and engage young people with complex needs

Support young people to build their confidence, resilience and work-related networks

I believe without young people’s input, feedback and influence the funding decisions made would have been completely different and perhaps not as beneficial as we think to unemployed young people
Project representative, TalentMatch Middlesbrough

Trust young people as experts in their own journeys

  • Co-production broadens the reach of your services and responds to the needs and wishes of your intended beneficiaries
  • It also helps with efforts to improve policy and practice
  • Involving young people has a positive effect on their transversal skills

Consider integrating mental health support with employment support

We have found that the biggest personal challenges that young people are currently facing are associated with conditions like autism or mental ill health, which ranges from clinical diagnoses to anxiety and depression.

One-to-one support plays a fundamental role in helping young people transition into the labour market

Support built on a one-to-one trusted relationship is essential, so almost all Talent Match projects include a ‘key worker’ model.

As participants get closer to employment, key workers need to adapt and change their approaches: moving from a focus on emotional, personal and social development, to a greater emphasis on employability and careers guidance

In-work support can improve sustainability of employment outcomes

Young people who need the most intensive support to secure a job are also more likely to struggle to retain employment in the short-term. Successful in-work support provides a sounding-board for the young person, giving advice on a range of issues rather than taking action on their behalf.

81% of TM participants who have received in-work support have held onto their job for 6 months while only 75% of those who have not received such support have stayed in their role

A real step change is needed in the relationship and engagement between employers and young people

Building meaningful relationships with employers from the very beginning is important, rather than it being a tokenistic after-thought

  • Involve employers in the design of your services
  • Create more constructive job application experiences
  • Offer a ‘menu’ of options for employers to get involved
  • Review expectations of employers for entry level jobs

The risk of headline findings masking the growing problem of ‘hidden youth’

Policy makers, funders and commissioners may see youth unemployment as a problem that has been ‘solved’ but those on the front line are witnessing some young people, especially those who face multiple or complex barriers to employment, drifting even further away from the labour market than before.

There is also a growing concern over the increasing number of young people who are no longer ‘just’ NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training) but who are becoming ‘hidden’ – neither receiving benefits, nor engaged in employment, education or training.

‘Hidden’ youth unemployment has doubled to 168,000 since 2012

Investment in youth employment needs to be long term to make a real difference

We have learned that lives cannot be turned around in a matter of weeks. Time, resources and multiple interventions may be needed to achieve sustainable change.

  • Prevention is cheaper than ‘cure’
  • Local partnerships need to work across sectors to ensure services are seamless and no one is left behind
  • Commissioning and funding needs to change
  • Local problems require local solutions

Voluntary and community organisations can successfully lead strategic youth employment partnerships

Employment programmes are typically run by Local Authorities or larger private providers but TM shows that youth and community groups can successfully lead and deliver large, high-quality, outcome focused contracts. Locally based organisations often have the trust of young people that JobCentre Plus deem ‘hard to reach’, and therefore they are in a stronger position to identify and engage them.

Top tips

How to involve young people on design and delivery of services

Our ‘top tips’ on how to involve young people in the design and delivery of services

  • Genuine co-production takes some time and resource to set up
  • Make sure all staff and partners understand both the benefits and the subtle, but important differences in various types of service user involvement
  • Establish key principles for the involvement of young people in design & delivery:
    • Involve them at a level that they feel is appropriate to them at the time
    • Make them feel welcome, encourage them to challenge existing ways of working; respect their contributions
    • Ensure participation is voluntary and that they can change their mind
    • Build in flexibility – young people may not be able to make all meetings
    • Consider incentives or payments for some young people taking part in co- production
  • Some partnerships have found that putting young people in unpaid leadership roles meant that they were excluding those who could not afford to attend sessions. Some have employed their former beneficiaries or taken them on as apprentices to ensure they can contribute to all aspects of design and delivery
  • Meetings are run and written information is provided in jargon-free Plain English and in an age-friendly format that is easily understandable
  • Make sure your target audience of young people understand how they can benefit from getting involved in co-production
  • Make sure staff, partner organisations and young people know what has changed as a result of their contributions
  • Think about how to gather the views of people from different backgrounds and with different experiences
They treat us as adults… Everything the young people say is listened to and we get recognition for the things we achieve
Project representative, TalentMatch Nottingham

Top tips

Employer engagement

Our ‘top tips’ on employer engagement

  • Consider offering a portfolio of different ways to get involved; from light-touch options (e.g. helping young people with mock interviews, workplace visits) to more time and effort intense options (e.g. providing work placements, apprenticeships)
  • Tap into existing schemes, such as Talent Match Mark, to ensure employers are not bombarded with too many different employability programmes
  • Be proactive and go to employers in their own territory, don’t expect them to come to you
  • Recognise, celebrate and ‘share’ messages about the contribution of employers
  • Be professional and make the involvement of employers as easy and smooth for them as possible: think about appointing a single contact point for employers with whom they can communicate with
  • Consider offering employers something in return for their involvement
  • Train and develop front-line staff to understand employer needs and opportunities
  • Help young people build their own knowledge of the workplace and broader labour market through multiple work experience opportunities
  • Involve employers in the designing and development of employment support services
63% of employers countrywide require previous experience for entry level roles