In what ways was the Talent Match employment programme successful, how did it compare with The Work Programme, and how could it have been improved? A series of reports evaluating Talent Match have been produced by the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) and partners.
It seeks to understand the Talent Match, where it was successful and where aspects could have been better, and to compare it to other employment programmes. The links to the reports are below and here is a link to the Talent Match Evaluation Website
The Talent Match programme was launched in 2012 and implemented between 2014-2018. The National Lottery Community Fund provided £108 million that was distributed to 21 voluntary and community sector led partnerships across England.
Key characteristics of the Talent Match programme:
- Support was provided on a personalised and individual basis, responding to the needs of participants.
- The programme aimed to work with young people aged 18-24 who were furthest from the labour market.
- The programme was voluntary in contrast to government funded employment programmes at the time.
- The programme was co-designed and co-delivered with the support of young people.
The Big Lottery Fund commissioned an Evaluation and Learning contract that is being led by the CRESR at Sheffield Hallam University with its partners, the Institute for Employment Research (IER), at the University of Warwick and Cambridge Economic Associates. A series of reports have been produced -you can find the links to them below, alongside their key findings.
- A total of 25,885 young people were supported by Talent Match. Of these, 46% (or 11,940) secured some form of job, including 17% (or 4,479) who secured sustained employment or self-employment.
- Participants were broadly like the wider population of not in employment education or training (NEETs) with three main differences: they were more likely to be male 63%, on benefits (and therefore not hidden NEET), and more likely to have low life satisfaction.
- Participants moving into work reported high levels of job satisfaction.
- Talent Match helped support participants to improve their wellbeing: 70% of those who gained a job reported improved life satisfaction; and 60% for those who did not gain a job.
- At least £3.08 of public value has been generated for every £1 spent on Talent Match programme delivery. This means it is cost effective whilst providing social benefits
- Lead voluntary and community sector (VCS) partner organisations effectively engaged other organisations from across sectors. Nonetheless there were challenges to partnership working, notably in terms of engaging Local Enterprise Partnerships and working with employers.
- The involvement of young people was the key feature of programme innovation and lessons on successful co-production can be drawn from Talent Match for future practice.
- Young people, especially those facing multiple barriers (including low skills, limited employment experience, homelessness and low levels of wellbeing) will continue to need support regardless of the state of the national economy and the level of unemployment.
The Work Programme and Talent Match provide examples of two very different types of employment programme, but also notable similarities which aid their comparison.
The main differences being:
- Their size and scope.
- The Work Programme was largely compulsory, while Talent Match was voluntary. Payment was therefore more prominent in the Work Programme
- Talent Match was geographically targeted, the Work Programme operated nationwide.
- Relationships were also more hierarchical in the Work Programme, with higher potential for performance management.
- Talent Match arguably adopts a more network, partnership-based approach.
- Youth involvement also runs through many of the comparisons, acting as a key example of innovation reflecting a differing underlying ethos.
Perhaps less obvious, are the similarities between the two programmes:
- Both are ‘supply side’ labour market, targeted individual capabilities and assets, with much more limited interventions geared towards creating labour market opportunities via activities such as job subsidisation. (Demand side would be creating more jobs, increasing demand for labour)
- Neither was a dedicated disability programme.
- Both offered a core of work-first interventions, though Talent Match also offered a range of more intensive interventions and the opportunity for youth involvement in partnerships.
- Both were divided into geographical regions, covered by direct contractors. Whilst implemented in different ways, therefore, both are examples of the ‘prime’ model of delivery, as opposed to more dispersed contracting models.
- Both exhibited relatively high levels of flexibility for these direct contractors, which was generally passed on to subcontractors and delivery partners.
- Both targeted employment outcomes as a central performance measure to set their core targets.
- An in depth exploration and comparisons are intended to increase understanding more than if evaluated in isolation. Although outcomes and value for money are outside the scope of this report, it is clearly necessary to understand the different context and design features of both programmes in order to judge their performance on their own terms.
Impact and value
- Talent Match supported almost 26,000 young people over the course of the programme.
- Talent Match supported young people who were often those furthest from the labour market and who faced substantial challenges to labour market participation, including low levels of mental health and wellbeing. Substantial investment is required to support young people who are most disadvantaged in the labour market.
- 50% of the programme participants moved into employment, and 17% sustained employment for six months or more.
- Up to 28% young people would not have gained a job without participating in the programme.
- Talent Match participants moving into work reported high levels of job satisfaction.
- Being in a stronger local labour market (with lower levels of unemployment) and having a greater level of job readiness were associated with a greater likelihood of finding work.
- Talent Match helped support participants to improve their wellbeing. The percentage of participants with a high life satisfaction more than doubled from nine to 24%, to just below the national average. 70% of young people who gained a job reported improved life satisfaction. Even amongst those participants who did not find a job, 60% still reported an improvement in their life satisfaction.
- At least £3.08 of public value has been generated for every £1 spent on Talent Match programme delivery. This means that there is a positive social benefit associated with Talent Match.
- The nature of employment opportunities open to young people meant that many participants who found a job remained eligible for welfare benefits and had low levels of taxation and National Insurance responsibility. Therefore, the evaluation did not identify a positive fiscal benefit from the programme.