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This talent will out in the jobs market

A private-sector training firm is helping the long-term unemployed to find work, reports Ngaio Crequer.

The eighteen-year-old had finally found work and for the first four weeks all went well. He loved the job and his employers were very pleased with his progress.

But after the fifth week he just failed to turn up. Talent, the training provider which had placed the young man, set out to find him. "We check up every day in the first month," said Jonathan Baldrey, the managing director of Talent, "and we had received such glowing reports from both sides that we were really surprised that something had gone wrong."

Eventually the man was tracked down and he told his mentor that the company had given him a phoney cheque for his wages, which four banks had refused to accept. He had eventually ripped it up, and left the firm in disgust.

"What he did not know, and nobody told him, was that he had to open a bank account to enable the cheque to be paid in," said Mr Baldrey. The problem was sorted out, the man returned to the job, and a successful career began.

"Some of the people we place have very basic problems. They may have been written off at school, kicked out of home at 16, may not have a proper roof over their head. They are struggling just to survive."

Talent is a London-based training provider and recruitment agency operating a private sector scheme bearing more than a passing resemblance to Labour's Welfare to Work proposals.

It specialises in getting long-term unemployed adults in jobs with training. But it does not just place a person in a job and then leave them. It attracts the candidate, analyses their needs and discusses possible jobs and careers, spending time in preparing the candidate for work. A high-level behavioural development programme is worked out in case attitudes need to be changed.

The company works closely with employers to find a suitable position and as individuals move into employment they are provided with on-the job training, facilitated by the company and delivered by the employer.

It receives funding from regional agencies, the Single Regeneration Budget, local education authorities or contracts with training and enterprise councils.

All employers contract with Talent to deliver a minimum 21 hours per week training over a four-week period, and this is monitored by the company. The individual has his or her own mentor, with whom they can discuss any problems at work.

In the last 12 months, staff at Talent have placed 1,600 long-term unemployed people into jobs, 72 per cent of which have come from ethnic minorities.

"We see ourselves as a competitor to JobCentres. But we put our jobs in the window. We are trying to attract the unemployed to us. Our staff have been trained to think that every candidate is a customer," said Mr Baldrey.

The company works on a two-tier system. Each candidate registers with a consultant. The consultants do not talk to employers - a separate group, known as account managers, keeps links with them. This is because the company believes that you cannot be loyal to candidates and employers simultaneously.

A range of training modules have been developed to suit the different needs of the candidates. "They are about re-motivating people, finding out who they are and where they are going, what their prospects are and what they want to do. We talk about the importance of turning up on time, we plan how to get a job and what to look out for. These courses are based on the idea that people do not always make brilliant decisions about what jobs they would like."

Some courses are residential and one is held in Paris. Mr Baldrey said: "Eighty per cent of young disillusioned people have never been out of their home city. If life is an inner-city council estate and you have never been anywhere else, and then you go to the countryside or another country, it can have a tremendous effect."

He is clear on one thing. "There is no such thing as an unemployable person. No, that person does not exist. We have been working with one person for 18 months and he has an interview this morning. I have said to him I will get you a job, if you keep it. It is not difficult to get jobs, but it is very difficult for some people to keep them."

The company has a 75 per cent success rate in placing candidates in jobs, though some need four, five or six attempts. "But someone who does not want a job, I will not help. It may be they are not job-ready and there we can help," he said.

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