Birmingham universities set to boost career opportunities for homegrown students

16/05/2019 by Hannah Jackson

The University of Birmingham, Newman University and University College Birmingham have won a grant from the Office for Students (OfS) to boost career opportunities for the city’s home-grown students.

The three universities partnered up to enter the Challenge Competition to fund a number of progression coaches to support students who have chosen to study and work in the Birmingham area where they grew up.

According to the OfS, nearly half of graduates in England fall into this category. However, it is this student base that are more likely to be from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, are often less mobile and less likely to secure graduate-level work away from their local area.

With the three-year funding, ‘local’ students in their final year of a degree and recent graduates of the three universities will be able to receive tailored support from the designated progression coaches. These will be tasked with raising aspirations, improving work-readiness and strengthening recruitment pipelines and practices, working closely with employers.

As part of the project, there will also be opportunities for students to take part in reverse mentoring, where students mentor local and regional employers on how they can break down barriers to inclusivity.

This is designed to help employers overcome unintended biases within their recruitment processes, while developing students’ confidence and building up their leadership and teamwork skills.

To facilitate this, the partnership will be seeking 30 employers from local West Midlands Business, Professional and Financial Services (BPFS) sector to participate and 90 undergraduate final year students and recent graduates to become mentors.

Professor Sir David Eastwood, Vice-Chancellor and Principal at the University of Birmingham said:

“We are delighted to be given this opportunity by the Office for Students. With our partners, University College Birmingham and Newman University, ‘Transformation West Midlands’ will test a more personalised approach to careers provision and will bring students and graduates together with employers to share learning, dispel assumptions and raise aspirations by building a stronger system of support.”

Professor Peter Childs, Acting Vice-Chancellor of Newman University, said: “We are delighted to be an active partner in this project, supporting our local graduates through to high level employment. Developing social mobility and opportunity for all of our students fits with the ethos of the institution.”​

Professor Ray Linforth, Principal and Vice-Chancellor at University College Birmingham, said: “Nationally, nearly half of graduates choose to study and work in the area where they grew up, but opportunities in some regions are limited due to uneven regional productivity and variable local labour markets.

“Progression coaches are not new in higher education, but these particular coaches will provide one-to-one support to a very targeted group of students, helping them overcome perceived and real barriers.”

The collaboration is one of just 15 made up of universities and colleges from across England to be awarded funding from the Office for Students from a £5.6 million cash pot to improve prospects for this particular student base, which are known as ‘Loyals’.

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of the Office for Students said: “There is an outdated assumption that the typical student experience involves moving far away from home to study and work. This is not true for a large number of students and graduates, and we know that, whether by choice or circumstance, many stay in their home towns.

“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.

“This funding will help universities and colleges find ways to remove barriers to local graduate employment, broaden the choice for those local graduates, and help ensure that students are getting the right skills to enter rewarding work. It’s good news for graduates, universities and local employers in search of highly-skilled, work-ready graduates.”