The Talent Coach Approach

“It’s about changing a family or peer-group culture in which young people have been stuck on a path of no or low need to motivate people to think they can do something and build ambition. If you set goals, put your mind to achieving them, you can get there."

Seven months after the first young people joined GM’s Hidden Talent young people are making amazing progress towards and into employment. We are above target for our employment outcomes – but this only tells us so much. 

With it being Youth Work Week – a national celebration of youth workers’ dedication and impact - we have taken the opportunity to profile how our Talent Coaches are working with young people. 

The Model

Our USP as a programme is the Talent Coach. 

We have commissioned Delivery Partners to employ Talent Coaches to work with hidden young people across all 10 Greater Manchester local authority areas.

We trust in the professionalism of our 10 Talent Coaches, knowing that they are best-placed to assess a young person’s situation and from there, plot a course towards employment. Unencumbered by any centralised working mode, the Talent Coaches work to the individual needs of a young person; getting to know them and unpicking their circumstances. Talent Coaches can also provide in-work support to young people who secure jobs.

We know the model works. Between 2013 and 2018, over 70 Talent Coaches supported nearly 2,000 young people on our former programme, GM Talent Match, with 634 young people moving into employment. The numbers scratch the surface. The relationship between young person and Talent Coach is a huge driver towards positive outcomes. 

The local reputation of Talent Coaches and their organisations makes them a trusted source of support for young people. Thanks to Talent Coaches’ links with local schools, careers advisors, and housing associations, some young people on GM Talent Match knew their Talent Coach before joining the programme. Some young people were referred through a friend or family member who knew the Talent Coach. Peer referrals continue to form the basis of some organisations’ caseloads.

Letting our Delivery Partners work in the ways that suit them, suits young people.  We don’t stipulate where Talent Coaches meet young people. Talent Coaches tell us that meeting in public spaces can build confidence, as can taking the time to show a young person how to use public transport. Nor do we monitor how often Talent Coaches are meeting young people. Talent Coaches agree action plans with young people based on need and log actions. Talent Coaches are also trusted to make a judgement as to how quickly a young person can be moved into work – a topic to be explored anon.

The breadth of the Talent Coach role is encapsulated in a quote from Owen, a young person being supported by Bolton Lads and Girls Club: "It (GM’s Hidden Talent) is not all just about finding you a career, but instead helping in other areas of life...things like budgeting, ensuring you are being fed and have somewhere to live, having someone to talk to and organising you to visit services for help.”

This work is time-consuming and requires bucketloads of patience and empathy, but it gets to the root of young people’s difficulties.

The barriers young people present with

A gamut of more entrenched barriers to employment – severe mental health difficulties, homelessness, caring responsibilities – are impacting individual young people on the programme, but clearer patterns are emerging relating to young people’s workplace awareness. Of the 131 young people registered to Hidden Talent at the time of writing:

•    24 % had no work experience or volunteering when joining the programme
•    46 % did not know what kind of employment they wanted 
•    51% did not know what skills/experience/qualifications they needed
•    72% were not confident with job searches and CVs

Over half of young people had difficulty managing their feelings and emotions. Over half struggled with confidence. Talent Coaches frequently report that this low confidence is linked to an endemic lack of routine (a result of not being in education, work or training).

Dave Mayers, a Talent Coach at the Broughton Trust, explains how he combats this negative feedback loop.

“It’s about changing a family or peer-group culture in which young people have been stuck on a path of no or low employment,” he said.

“You need to motivate people to think they can do something and build ambition. If you set goals, put your mind to achieving them, you can get there.”

Direction leads to quick progress

Talent Coaches, including Dave, report that young people have not been able to set goals because they lack knowledge around how and where to find work.

Iain Forrest, Talent Coach at Stockport Homes, said: “All of my young people have needed basic career advice and support developing or changing their CV’s. All but one of my young people have had very little idea of their career path due to lack of career guidance.”

Of the 23 young people who have entered employment to date, only four were confident undertaking job searches, writing CVs and undertaking job interviews when they joined the programme. Clearly a lot of progress is taking place in a short space of time. Dave provides an explanation.

“Our experience has shown it is wrong to assume that because someone is ‘hidden’, they don’t have work-ready qualities and attitude.”

Our Talent Coaches are able to coax out these traits – reliability, determination, a willingness to learn – by tapping into young people’s interests, establishing a routine and refining job search skills.

Sometimes Talent Coaches exploit longstanding links with employers to move young people into work as soon as possible: the ‘work first’ approach, where finding work is an early part of addressing social, emotional and financial difficulties. 
For some young people creating distance from a negative peer group and improving low self-esteem can be solved by being in work.

Creating a foundation

For young people with more deep-rooted barriers to work, Talent Coaches need to provide more intensive support before looking for work begins. Vulnerable young people may need stable accommodation to be arranged for them; help arranging and attending Jobcentre appointments; signposting to healthcare providers; support in sourcing ID documents and guidance with diet and sleeping patterns.

Other young people have started traineeships to develop their confidence and build experience of the workplace.

Sometimes, moving into education rather than work is the goal. Owen, a young person quoted earlier in this piece was supported to reconnect with his ambition of joining the police, and guided by his Coach Dora in his decision to move to Carlisle to start University studies. 

Moving on

As we gather more evidence from Delivery Partners (especially our new colleagues from organisations that did not work on GM Talent Match), we will learn more about Talent Coaches’ ways of working. Delivery Partners’ links with local employers will be explored, as will our mapping of where young people are being referred from. Our data capture and Proximity to the Labour Market measure will also provide statistical evidence to show how young people with more complex needs are moving closer to work.

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