May 2021

Birmingham universities partnership boosting career opportunities leads to award nomination

By Melanie Hall

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A project between hired@UCB and careers services at two other Birmingham universities to boost higher level employment for local students and graduates in their home region has been shortlisted for a national award. 

Transformation West Midlands (TWM), a collaboration between University College Birmingham, Newman University and University of Birmingham, is in the running for the Building Effective Partnerships Award for Excellence 2021 from the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS).

By working together on equality, diversity and inclusion at entry level, one major achievement of the partnership has been to encourage students and graduates from under-represented groups in the region to apply for roles in areas such as IT, public sector and professional services.

These include those with ethnic minority heritage, disabilities and who are the first in their family to attend university, groups that have historically faced wider challenges to securing graduate level employment through a lack of professional networks and access to appropriate knowledge and quality work experience. 

As well as being empowered through 1-2-1 progression coaching, they have benefitted hugely from TWM’s reverse mentoring, with 17 local ‘mentee’ organisations benefiting from insight from 49 student and graduate ‘mentors’.

"The project has already taught us so much, which we will be taking forward at University College Birmingham to influence the future of our career provision"

Sara Chan Assistant Director of Student Employability at hired@UCB

Feedback from the reverse mentoring organisations taking part revealed that the project had led to real positive change in the marketing of graduate recruitment schemes and application processes.  

And to create a stronger local eco-system of support, the TWM team has worked closely with employers, alumni and other local employability providers to help boost skills and job opportunities. 

The project, funded by the Office for Students, is underpinned by the belief that students from the region should be able to access meaningful opportunities close to home – not have to move to other regions for graduate level work. 

By doing so, it aims to help create a work-ready, new talent pipeline that fits local industry needs and helps employers to diversify their workforce, igniting new ideas and innovation to remain competitive and enter new markets.

Legacy beyond the project 

Sara Chan, Assistant Director of Student Employability at hired@UCB, the University’s careers, placements and employability team, said: “The collaboration works so well because we have a great set of individuals across all three institutions sharing good practice, ideas and working in partnership. 

“It’s been a pleasure to be part of Transformation West Midlands and the project has already taught us so much, which we will be taking forward at University College Birmingham to influence the future of our career provision.” 

Melissa Clarke, Careers Manager at Newman University, said: “It is so wonderful to be recognised for the collaborative work we are doing as a project team. Working together with a diverse range of knowledge, strengths and talents and learning from one another is culminating in some really positive results and outcomes that will hold legacy beyond the project."

Alison Sharp, Project Lead at University of Birmingham, said: “This nomination is fantastic news! Our achievements are testament to how we work collaboratively as a university partnership, and how our results are underpinned by great support and commitment from our local employers and providers. It truly is one big partnership. 

“We’re learning all the time, striving to make a difference for all, which undoubtedly will positively impact on our region."

TWM, a three-year project which runs until September 2022, was one of 15 collaborations from across England to win a grant from a funding pot of £5.6 million, being awarded £500k to get the project off the ground. 

The project is supported by Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP, Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, Black Country Consortium, UpRising and Birmingham Business School. 

The winners of this year's AGCAS Awards will be announced on 25 June.

Email Daniella Barnicle at to find out more about TWM. 

Find out more about hired@UCB.

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