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University of Bradford helps Yorkshire through downturn

10 November 09

The University of Bradford has created a new course to help graduates who are struggling to find jobs due to the economic downturn.

The course is the latest initiative by the University to help local organisations and individuals get through the recession and prepare for the upturn. Other work taking place includes training and guidance for 300 local companies and an enhanced careers guidance service for those suffering, or at risk from suffering, the effects of the recession.

The new Postgraduate Certificate in Employability and Enterprise gives students advanced interview skills, training on effective C.V. writing, advice on how to stand out in a crowded job market, enterprise skills, and will provide 12-week job placements. Crucially, employability skills are being linked with a greater understanding of how small businesses work to allow graduates to make contributions quickly once on in the workplace.

Following a successful funding bid to the Economic Challenge Investment Fund (ECIF), in a collaborative bid with the other university careers services in Yorkshire, Bradford is offering 20 internships in collaborations with local businesses.

The £50m Fund is run by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, and aims to enable higher education to respond rapidly to the needs of employers and individuals in the economic downturn through internship programmes. The University of Bradford has combined this with the Postgraduate Certificate to add maximum value for participants. Nine graduates have begun the programme, with 11 planned to start in spring 2010.

Most of the current students on the course graduated in summer 2008 and all have been unable to find suitable work since. They report massive competition in the job sector, often receiving feedback that they have been up against over 200 people for one post, leading to unemployment or underemployment - taking low paid and low skill jobs, often in the retail sector.

Fareeaa Moughal, 23, from Bradford, graduated from Psychology and Crime in 2008. After applying unsuccessfully for many skilled jobs she found a temporary administrative role,  but the job came to an end in March this year. "Not only were there very few graduate level jobs in Yorkshire to apply for, when I was applying I was being told there were 150 or 200 people applying for the same job, including people with much more experience who had been made redundant from a professional post.

"Now this course is really helping me, teaching me how to stand out from the crowd. I'm really looking forward to doing my internship, and I¿m hoping I can do something relevant to my degree, which is what I am really striving for."

Faisal Jamil, 23, from Cottingley, graduated from Forensics in 2008. He initially found a graduate role at a drug testing and consultancy service, but was made redundant in April this year. He said: "I hit a standstill, and just didn't know what to do. I couldn't find a job and was feeling increasingly frustrated being stuck at home all day.

"I am very pleased to have got a place on this course. I'm really enjoying it and it is teaching us how to sell ourselves, which is really important given the sheer volume of people applying for available jobs. It is all about awareness - giving us awareness of what our skills are and awareness of how we can really show those skills."

The graduates are currently going through the coaching and teaching part of the course, and will move on to beginning internships before Christmas.

Career Development Advisor, Ann Berry, is leading the course. She said: "Like the rest of the UK, the jobs market in Yorkshire has been very challenging. This has been felt especially by graduates, who are now often competing with people with more experience under their belts. We are delighted to be helping some of our graduates by giving them this intensive coaching and setting up fulfilling internships for them."

Other new University initiatives to tackle the economic downturn

Ian Rowe, Director of Research and Knowledge Transfer Support at the University of Bradford, said: "It's vital that the University of Bradford works with the local community  - businesses, students and residents, to help address the impact of the downturn. We have been working with government and regional funding bodies, along with other higher education institutions, to allow us to make a real impact.

"We have been working hard across the whole organisation to play an important role in tackling these problems and preparing for the upturn. These measures range from developing the curriculum across all graduate courses to provide employability and enterprise skills, to offering tailored education programmes to regional businesses seeking guidance and support."

These measures include:

Local businesses

The University of Bradford and the University of Leeds came together in April of this year to work together to assist local businesses hit by the recession with funding from The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and Yorkshire Forward.

The SME Knowledge Network, based at the University of Bradford's School of Management, and the Leeds University Business School are working collaboratively, bringing together their world-class expertise in management and leadership to help local companies to survive the current economic downturn and position themselves advantageously for when recovery begins. 

The universities received a £750,000 ECIF grant to invest in the needs of local companies through the provision of bespoke support including networking opportunities, training, consultancy and placements. The project began in June and runs for 18 months, providing training and is directed by the needs of individual companies. Currently, events and measures such as training, networking, and guidance have been offered to around 300 companies. Learning and development pathways can be provided to SMEs, which might include:

  • Action Learning (directors working together to solve problems)
  • Workshops and courses
  • Masterclasses supported by networking
  • Strategy/venture clinics for advice
  • Coaching and mentoring
  • Consultancy or facilitation from academics or practitioners in the SME Knowledge Network
  • Student placement services

The ECIF funding has also helped to support increased partnership working with Bradford Council, Business Link, Bradford Chamber and Leeds Chamber of Commerce through cross marketing and referral of products.

University of Bradford students

A review of the University's scholarship support fund has been carried out and has been increased by £250,000 to help more talented individuals have the opportunity to study.
In addition the curriculum across all graduate courses is being developed to provide strong employability and enterprise skills to give University of Bradford students the best chance to gain skilled employment upon completion of their degree.

University of Bradford graduates

The new Postgraduate Certificate in Employability and Enterprise is giving 20 graduates who have faced unemployment or underemployment coaching, enterprise skills and internships.
A discount of £750 has been introduced against the tuition fees for most postgraduate courses to help our recent graduates move forward in this difficult climate.
A series of internship posts within the University were launched over the summer which have provided this year's graduates with valuable experience and an opportunity to apply for specific roles within the University. These posts are to be based in the academic schools.

Local community

The West Yorkshire Lifelong Learning Network (WYLLN) has been boosted with £1m of ECIF funding.  The project will enable FE and HE delivery partners across West Yorkshire to provide a flexible and responsive service to individuals suffering from, or at risk of, suffering from the impact of the economic downturn. The project will run until September 2010 and provides an enhanced careers guidance service to complement and build on provision currently offered through Jobcentre Plus and Nextstep. In addition, the University is offering academic courses of between 30 and 120 credits to build technical, professional or employability skills. 

All activity is focussed on helping individuals and employers to develop their higher level skills or use their existing skills more effectively. In granting these groups access to training and professional development it is hoped businesses, employees and potential recruits are well placed to take advantage when the economic climate improves.

The £750 discount on tuition fees against most postgraduate courses, which was initially only for University of Bradford graduates, has been opened up to help other Bradford residents. This is now available for any Bradford citizens in their final year of an undergraduate course anywhere in the world.

10 November 09

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