July 2020

No place like home – universities join forces to open up local career opportunities

By Melanie Hall

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University College Birmingham’s hired@UCB team has joined forces with careers services from University of Birmingham and Newman University to improve higher level employment opportunities across the region and support West Midlands graduates into employment locally.

Transformation West Midlands (TWM) is a collaborative project funded by the Office for Students (OfS) Challenge Fund that is underpinned by the belief that students from the region should be able to access meaningful opportunities close to home.

The aim is to create work-ready, local graduates learning skills which fit local industry needs and a new diverse talent pipeline sought by employers to help diversify their workforce, igniting new ideas and innovation to remain competitive and enter new markets.

Nicola Whitmont Dandridge CBE, chief executive of the Office for Students, said: "Graduates should not have to move to London to get good jobs. It is essential that those who stay in their home towns and cities can enter high-skilled work and are not locked out of the graduate labour market." 

Transformation West Midlands is one of 15 collaborations from across England to win a grant from a funding pot of £5.6 million. To get the project off the ground, TWM has been awarded £500k to target locally domiciled students and graduates, particularly from ethnic minority heritage, students or recent graduates with disabilities and those who are the first in their family to attend university.

These groups have historically faced wider challenges to securing graduate level employment, for example, a lack of professional networks and having access to appropriate knowledge and quality work experience. 

The project seeks to redress the imbalance by offering a tailored coaching approach and supporting students and recent graduates to access relevant opportunities.

Led by careers services at each partner university, the collaboration will be working with final year undergraduate students and alumni (up to two years upon graduation), as well as employers, supporting organisations and other stakeholders to build a stronger local eco-system of support.

Daniella Barnicle, progression coach within hired@ucb, the University's careers, employability and placements service, said: "The programme's aim is to give students access to the usual careers support, but with more of a 1-2-1 focus, looking at the individual's goals and creating an action plan to get together. As well as careers support, the project has other benefits such as funding, work experience, events and mentoring that students can benefit from."

Ultimately, the learning gained as a result of the three-year project, which runs until May 2022, should provide higher education careers services with information on how they can better support under-represented groups to access the graduate labour market and assist employers to achieve a more diverse and balanced work force.

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

Email Daniella at d.barnicle@ucb.ac.uk to find out more.

Find out more about hired@UCB