‘Reverse Mentoring’ – Success with OfS Transformation West Midlands Project

29/01/2021 by Sinead Staunton

Newman University in partnership with Birmingham University and University College Birmingham created the Transformation West Midlands (TWM) project in response to the Office for Students’ (OfS) first ever Challenge Competition: Industrial strategy and skills.  Its aim is to boost job opportunities for local students and graduates within the region.  The project has seen great success in the past year and has now expanded to work with more organisations across the West Midlands.

TWM is aimed at students and recent graduates who may face wider challenges to securing graduate level employment, particularly those from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds as well as those with disabilities or first generation to higher education.

The project seeks to transform by firstly using Progression Coaches to work one-to-one with students and graduates; the knowledge gained from the work of the Coaches is being used to inform and influence the work of the wider careers service in supporting the progression of those most at risk of unemployment or not securing graduate-level employment.  Secondly the project works with employers to build a diverse talent pipeline for West Midlands employers, through Mentoring and Reverse Mentoring.  This also aims to increase social mobility and higher-level work for students and recent graduates to reduce underemployment and unemployment.

The mentoring process is a two-way process between mentor and mentee in this project and has resulted in some positive changes to employer recruitment strategies such as anonymous recruitment process, conducting initial screening methods in a less formal environment and changing website content and external communications channels to be more open about diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Another aspect of the project is the development of Reverse Mentoring where students become the mentors to employers.  The students give feedback, support, and advice to the employers about their perspective on the employer’s current graduate recruitment practices.  The aim is to help employers gain an insight into the mind-sets and experiences of students and graduates from the West Midlands, which in turn will support them to attract a wider and more diverse range of graduates into their organisations.

In 2019, the initial focus of the project was on one key growth sector:  Business, Professional, and Financial Services.  A range of organizations from that sector have worked with the project and students, such as HSBC, Shoosmiths, Gowling WLG & BSN Associated.

Due to the success of the project in its first year, it has now been expanded to work with businesses in other key growth sectors for including health and life sciences, technology, public service, and the voluntary sector.  Other organisations now working with the project including Air Liquide, Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Birmingham City Council, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Deloitte, FDM Group, Future Genetics, ICF, SOTI, Steps to Work, Teach First, Unlocked Graduates and West Midlands Police.

Dr Mehreen Mirza, Associate Dean (Faculty of Arts, Society and Professional Studies) and Chair of the Employability Task Group at Newman University, commented “We are extremely pleased to be part of the successful Transformation West Midlands project,  to give our students and graduates the opportunity to work with local employers, to not only gain experience themselves, but share their experiences to better the recruitment processes for others, and in turn to reduce unemployment and underemployment.”

Feedback and further details on the project are available on the OfS website.