Rising at the crack of dawn across various corners of the capital, members of the Talent Match London team; headed to Sheffield  on October 19 for this year’s Talent Match Conference and Networking Event.

The 2 day conference was hosted at the Novotel hotel by the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR), who lead on the Talent Match’s national   research and evaluation. The aim of the conference was to update, share learning and network with teams from other Talent Match regions.

The Talent Match London team were greeted by beaming members of the CRESR team including Peter Wells who led the day. They sported casual Talent Match Team T-shirts designed by former Talent Match participant and now a member of the CRESR team, Charlie Lisle. The t-shirts featured a beautiful butterfly print designed which represented “evolving and transforming to greater heights”.

To get things going, music artist Dellano Lewis from Talent Match Birmingham and Solihull uplifted everyone, with a song encouraging people to believe that they can achieve. There were also presentations from Matthew Poole, Head of Funding at theBig Lottery Fund and Talent Match groups from across England including Talent Match Leicester and Leicestershire and Talent Match Humber who discussed their work on hidden disabilities with PAAD and the research being done to raise awareness amongst employers to open up opportunities for those with learning and physical disabilities.

The team took part in different workshops, from learning about start-ups with Talent Match Middleborough and Talent Match New Anglia; to a Life Hacks session, held by 3 Talent Match regions . Talent Match Liverpool held a session showcasing ing the innovative work they do on youth mental health and Talent Match Greater Manchester discussed reaching hidden young people.. Disabilities, mental health and enterprise were big themes discussed at this year’s conference.

The conference also featured young people, who spoke of their own journey on Talent Match; from their challenges to their aspirations.. The young people praised their support workers and celebrated their efforts with cheering and encouragement.

Later in the day it was exciting to hear from Ashleigh Porter-Exley who was the 2012 Young Apprentice winner. Ashleigh was fascinating, friendly and funny with a lot of charm and ingenuity about her. A key lesson which Ashleigh shared, with great pride and conviction was that “you can get anywhere you want to in life with in a good sense of humor and common sense”.  To end the day, Dellano returned to perform a track called H2O which talked about being healthy by drinking water.

Overall, this was an engaging event and a great opportunity to network and learn from other Talent Match regions across England who  are  all working hard to come up with innovative solutions to tackle youth unemployment in their regions!