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Call for employers to take on young Neets as scheme faces closure

As Sheffield’s Talent Match programme comes to the end of its funding, it calls on local employers to give disadvantaged young people a chance, as Jamie Veitch explains.

Entrepreneurs and businesses across the Sheffield city region have been issued a challenge: ‘Will you help change the lives of the region’s most disadvantaged young people by taking them into your workforce?’.

The appeal is from Talent Match, a programme led by Sheffield Futures which has been transforming the lives of young Neets (people not in education, employment or training) for the last four years.

Its coaches work with young people on a one-to-one basis to help them with personal struggles, enable them to gain confidence, qualifications and work experience – and support them and their employer for many months.

This hand-holding scheme has already nurtured 622 disadvantaged 18-25 young people who had been out of work for more than a year into employment. A further 1,300 are currently being helped into education, training and voluntary work.

But despite being recognised as one of the top five projects of its kind across the UK, Talent Match will come to an end in December 2018 unless new funding is found.

Sheffield Futures, which runs the project, has to find the money to continue when Big Lottery funding runs out and are intent on maximising their work while they still have the means. Attracting more employers is key.

Since Talent Match began in 2013, 189 firms from the region’s voluntary and private sectors have got on board. And in the last 18 months, 165 companies in the Sheffield City Region signed up.

But, as Gail Gibbons, chief executive at Sheffield Futures, says: ‘We need more. We have young clients waiting right now for work experience placements that can change their lives.

‘These people are going to be left behind without help to change their lives and secure brighter futures by joining the local workforce.

‘Getting them off benefits and into work is good for the public purse, but it also enables these young people to reach for dreams they never thought were possible. And these young people are an untapped resource; they can bring real value to the region’s workforce.’

Numerous Talent Match clients are currently in unpaid placements and 60 are employed with local companies on wage subsidy, an important offer from the programme, which enables a wage to be paid for up to six months.

Of 20 whose wage subsidy has ended, seven have been taken on by their employer. Others have been able to use their experience of work to find another job, one is now an apprentice and another has set up in business.

Ms Gibbons added: ‘Employer engagement is critical. We are looking for caring employers we can work with to offer quality placements.

‘We understand companies may feel it’s a risk to take on young people who do not have much work experience. But we are there to support them and the young person and the reward is two-fold; many companies have jobs they always struggle to fill and successful company owners tell us they didn’t have the best start in life and want to give someone a helping hand.’

Two of the employers already signed up include Zenza Limited, a bookkeeping payroll and credit control provider, and computer recycling social enterprise, Aspire, who has helped several Talent Match clients over two and a half years, three of whom are now employed by Aspire, with two having moved on to IT jobs elsewhere.

Sheffield Futures is appealing to local authorities, employers, funders, stakeholders and social investors to back their fight for survival. Their ‘No One Left Behind’ conference is being staged at Rotherham’s New York Stadium on November 10th 2017. Talent Match’s young success stories will take to the stage to tell their stories and regional employers will also speak about the positive impact on their workforces.

Aspire founder and general manager Dave Metcalfe said: ‘Our Talent Match people all had a passion for IT but never thought they would get a foothold in the industry. Now they are building computers and solving IT problems for customers. They have been outstanding, soaking up knowledge and seizing every training opportunity offered.

‘We’ve seen visible changes in their personality, attitude and optimism for the future.

‘One of them is now the new manager of our retail shop, which sells affordable equipment we have refurbished. He’s doing a fantastic job and is also an excellent mentor to others coming through the programme.

‘Young people are struggling in the jobs market. Available opportunities are fiercely contested and this makes it even harder for anyone with life challenges to get a foot on the ladder. The longer the ladder gets, the distance to the first rung seems impossible.’

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