No one was left behind when an organisation fighting to continue reshaping the lives of the most vulnerable young people in the Sheffield City Region celebrated its many successes.
Young adults whose lives had been turned around by the employment programme Talent Match SCR told their remarkable stories of hope and positivity at the No One Left Behind conference at Rotherham’s New York Stadium this month.
Local businesses who have welcomed them into their workforces, and Talent Match coaches, spoke of the rewards of providing a helping hand to young adults who would otherwise slip through the net and potentially end up jobless for life.
Clients have each been jobless for more than 12 months, and many experience barriers to work ranging from learning disabilities, mental health problems and homelessness to single parenthood. Others have spent years in care.
Key stakeholders outlined their belief in the programme, which helps young people develop skills and confidence through individually tailored solutions, including placements with caring local employers offering jobs that suit their needs. A team of 23 coaches continue to support them in the workplace for 6 months and beyond.
Talent Match SCR has placed 693 young adults into employment across South Yorkshire and North East Derbyshire, and a further 1,300 are currently being helped by moving into education, training and voluntary work. Around 160 businesses in the region are supporting Talent Match by offering work placement and jobs.
Despite its success, though, the trailblazing national project, of which the Sheffield City Region scheme is a top five performer, looks destined to close in a year’s time (Dec 2018) when Big Lottery funding runs out
Talent Match SCR staged the conference to shout about its successes and appeal to local authorities, employers, funders, stakeholders and social investors to back their fight for survival by offering funding and support.
The event shared success stories from the project’s four-year history and attracted over 100, including representatives from the Third Sector, youth organisations and local authorities across the Sheffield City Region.
Speaking at the event, Lynne Hilson, operations director of Sheffield Futures, the young people’s charity which runs the project, said: “Talent Match has changed lives in this region. Young people who believed they could never have a secure and happy future – because they thought they were unemployable – now have steady jobs and dreams they can reach for. We have to find a way to continue so we can help thousands more.”
Hosted by BBC’s Tom Ingall, of BBC Look North, the event featured live voting sessions, on-stage interviews with young people, video stories and a ceremony which saw two Sheffield organisations win awards for their support – Aspire Community Enterprise, of Parson Cross, a social enterprise helping vulnerable young people who never dreamed they could turn their passion for IT into their future find jobs in the industry. The computer recycling company marginalised people has helped seven young clients and currently employs three.
The All Friends Community Hub based at Walkley Ebenezer Church provides a day service and holiday respite for adults of all ages who have additional needs, learning and physical disabilities. It has helped three Talent Match young people, one of whom now has a permanent position there.
Another highlight of the conference was a magic show by Sheffielder Calum Morris, who is now a professional self-employed magician thanks to Talent Match. The 22 year old, from Ecclesall, who now performs performs close-up magic at dinners, parties and conferences, received a standing ovation.
Talent Match project manager Jo Booth said: “Calum was just one of our stars on the day. There was so much emotion in the room in response to the stories the young people told of their journeys. My team was bursting with pride at their talent, courage and positivity.”
Speaker Nigel Brewster, Vice Chair of the Sheffield City Region LEP, told the audience: “In the words of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, ‘rising employment alone will not tackle entrenched pockets of deprivation. To make Britain work for all we need to connect growth and cities to deprived neighbourhoods’. This is what Talent Match CCR is about – ensuring that in positive times, we don’t leave people behind.”
Guests heard about the value and impact of both the national and regional Talent Match programme from guest speaker Peter Wells, Professor of Public Policy Analysis and Evaluation at Sheffield Hallam University. He commented: “Talent Match SCR has engaged over 2,000 young people, with nearly a third reporting mental ill health – higher than the average across other Talent Match programmes in England.
“Young people in Sheffield City Region are also more likely to experience homelessness and have a criminal record than those in many other Talent Match areas. Together, these issues present major barriers and demonstrate the need to develop an inclusive economy in Sheffield City Region.
“Talent Match’s legacy indicates that there should be a youth employment programme across Britain and this should be part of All-Party manifestos at the next General Election.”
Scott Hignett, funding and relationship manager (Big Lottery Fund) told the audience: “Talent Match Sheffield City Region is a family and a true example of the saying: ‘We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”