By Daniel Sollé, Talent Match London Programme Delivery Manager
This month I caught up with Toby and Taz, from Talent Match London’s Collage Arts’ team, where they were up to their eyeballs in props and set dressing in anticipation of their secret cinema show on the Friday 30 October.
Young people from Talent Match London flit in and out of the room throughout our chat and Toby and Taz seamlessly shift from answering my questions to answering the questions of the young people and then back again to me. You can see how much they enjoy what they are doing. “I love seeing young people come in here with not a lot of experience and then see them a few months later attending interviews with new skills and much more confidence,” says Taz, “and I love the creativity and the unpredictability of it all!”
As Talent Match London participants suit up in overalls for a spot of set painting, Toby jumps in. “I love the creativity too – and the fact that there’s a bit of freedom and that it’s youth-led. The young people come up with some crazy stuff and I love interpreting that into something that is going to have a connection with the world of employment – it’s a real partnership. Right now with the secret cinema, for example, it’s just great to see the young people working it out together – who’s going to do this on the night, who’s going to do that, the do’s and the don’ts. You don’t get that in a workshop!”
Throughout our conversation it’s clear how fired up Toby and Taz are by their work, but surely there are some challenges too. “The biggest challenge is recruitment, because so many of the young people are not really visible,” muses Toby, “but now things are really picking up because we’re getting a lot of referrals from young people who are on Talent Match London. Now that we are doing all this exciting stuff – like the secret cinema – people want to be a part of it and so they find us.” Taz nods in agreement, “We find there is nothing better in terms of engagement than young people talking to other people – that’s the great part of being where we are in the programme – that there are now more young people who are confident to do that.”
And the good news of course is that we are seeing that right across the programme.
What about the other side of things, though – the targets and the evaluation? “We have a lot of targets to meet,” smiles Taz, “but that’s not something that the young people will ever see, as our focus is on keeping the space relaxed and on always being approachable so that the young people feel comfortable to keep coming back”. “I love the fact that we are assessed on more than standard outputs,” adds Toby,” that there is a lot of qualitative reporting. It’s great to report on the soft skills, the skills and confidence and the positive pathways.”
The youth hub is getting busy now, cans of paint are being opened and balls of wool are unraveling. There’s just time for our familiar closing question, What did you want to be when you grew up? “So many things!” laughs Taz. “I wanted to be on TV, I told my Mum I wanted to be an artist…” Sounds like a great Explore stage to us. And Toby? “I wanted to be a politician because I wanted to change the world –and, you know, I think we’re doing a little bit of that here.”