Evaluation Blog #11: The role of employers in Talent Match

Young people lie at the heart of Talent Match (TM) and rightly so. But if those young people are to enter and sustain employment it is important that the role of employers is centre stage too.

Employers represent the so-called ‘demand-side’ of the labour market and are gatekeepers to jobs. So Talent Match Partnerships need to understand how their local labour market works, whether and how vacancies are advertised and employers’ recruitment and selection policies. They must work with employers if they are to achieve their employment targets.

From the outset of the TM programme the Big Lottery stressed the importance of strategic involvement of employers and employers’ organisations in TM partnerships on an ongoing basis. This could be through direct involvement in the core partnership or an employer forum, so taking a role in strategic decision-making or providing strategic advice. It could also entail provision of operational advice or expertise on specific issues via involvement in other activities.

In contrast, employer engagement focuses on the practical issues of making contact with employers to raise awareness of TM and to encourage them to offer jobs, work placements and other employment-related opportunities to young people. Employer engagement can be:

  • proactive (demand-side led): finding out where there are vacancies and directing young people to those vacancies; or
  • reactive (supply-side led): identifying the job preference of a young person and finding a vacancy that ‘fits’; or
  • a mix of both.

Recent case study research as part of the TM national evaluation explores the role of employers in four TM partnership areas – the Black Country, D2N2, Staffordshire and Worcestershire. It draws on interviews with partnership leads, core partners, delivery partners, young people and employers themselves.

It highlights the importance of reputation and trust with employers. This means that young people need to be ‘work ready’ and matched to opportunities that represent a ‘good fit’. This is important for young person concerned, for the employer and for the TM partnership.

The corporate social responsibility (CSR) agenda and local community spirit can be important ‘hooks’ for employers to be involved and engaged in TM. But it is important that young people are seen by employers as capable, valuable employees on their own merits, and not as ‘charity cases’.

The precise approaches adopted by TM partnerships to employer involvement and engagement vary in accordance with resources and experience. But this is a topic where there is plenty of scope for sharing experience of what works well (and less well).

Professor Anne Green, Institute for Employment Studies, University of Warwick

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