Discussion, Engagement and Real Opportunities at the Big Conversation 2018

Andy Burnham on stage at the Big Conversation

The Big Conversation took place on Wednesday 17th January 2018, bringing together young people and employers to have a meaningful discussion on the issues surrounding youth unemployment. The event concluding with a keynote speech from Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, who emphasized the need for a ‘curriculum for life’ within Greater Manchester.

Discussions and activities were designed to help young people recognise their strengths and worth. We asked employers to consider how their employment practices might be excluding and alienating disadvantaged young people.

Julia Wolfendale presenting the 'I'll show you how I shine' game.


Julia Wolfendale, On The Up Consulting Ltd, hosted the, ‘I’ll Show You How I Shine’ game; “The Big Conversation was a fabulous event for both employers and employees. It is so important for employers to find new ways to engage with young people, remove the barriers of formal interview techniques and enable young people to take their first steps into employment. (My) activity gave young people the opportunity to discover for themselves the transferable skills they had that employers needed. These discoveries led to conversations on the day about real work prospects. Thank you GM Talent Match for making this magic happen”. 

Young people described how they should have confidence in their abilities; ‘we can do more than we thought!’ Other young people said they have developed customer care skills, people skills and mentoring skills though volunteering. One young person described how they will be more optimistic about their potential work prospects. Notably, one of our young people introduced himself to Joy Woods from Galliford Try, who has now organised a site visit in Oldham, with the intention of matching him to a placement that matches his goals and interests. 

Table of young people and employersUp next were the Talent Match Mark Awards, presented by our amazing Youth Panel. Congratulations to Stockport Council, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust and NHS Careers & Engagement Hub, who were presented with a Talent Match Mark Award, representing their commitment to supporting young people in their journey to work.

As part of the Big Conversation, we asked employers to make a pledge regarding their employment practices – this included approaching work experience in a more youth friendly way, changing recruitment practices to be more relaxed and informal, and continuing to offer two and four week work experience placements.

Andy Burnham on stage at the Big Conversation


This was followed by an interview role play, in which an employer and young person demonstrated the ‘Dos’ and ‘Don’ts’ of interviews. Employers got involved and considered what they could do to improve their interview processes, including avoiding the use of overcomplicated questions, talking to young people about what works for them and not being afraid to think outside the box. One young person described how the event helped them learn what to say and do in an interview.

To close the event, Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester gave the keynote speech. He emphasised the need for a ‘curriculum for life’ in Greater Manchester, to support young people in life-readiness, as well as more affordable travel. He also had this to say:

“I enjoyed meeting the young people and employers at last week's GM Talent Match Big Conversation in Manchester; it was an event full of meaningful discussions on a wide range of youth unemployment issues."

“In Greater Manchester we want to help young people to make their way in the world and get their voices heard. Just this month, working with Transport for Greater Manchester, we were able to introduce Metrolink’s new half price off-peak fares for 16 to 18 year olds, in addition to the half price bus fares introduced in September 2017."

“I'm also really excited by the potential of our new Youth Combined Authority, which will ensure young people have opportunities to make real changes to the way the city-region works for them."

“As Mayor I speak to many young people who have great ideas about how Greater Manchester can work better for people of their age. I am really keen to harness their energy and their knowledge, and to help them turn their ideas into reality.”