Sue Stockwell & Norman Day
Students from under-represented groups and disadvantaged backgrounds in the Tees Valley are set to get an employment boost, thanks to an ambitious project which has won funding in a national competition.
Advantage Tees Valley aims to increase the number of students from under-represented groups securing local graduate-level employment within a year of graduation.
The scheme will pay particular attention to addressing the needs of students and graduates from minority ethnic groups, those who come from communities where, traditionally, not many school and college leavers go to university and those with disabilities.
The North East has one of the highest percentages of entrants from low participation neighbourhoods in the country – 23.4% compared to a national average of 11.4%.*
Funding for the three-year project has been won through the first Challenge Competition to be run by the Office for Students, the independent regulator of Higher Education in England. Focused on the priorities of the modern Industrial Strategy, the competition invited initiatives designed to support local students and graduates to make the transition into highly skilled employment.
Delivered by the University’s Student Futures Team, Advantage Tees Valley will be supported by regional college partners, local employers, Tees Valley Combined Authority and the North East England Chamber of Commerce, as well as support organisations for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) and disability groups.
Teesside University is committed to equality and diversity and has a very strong reputation for its work in widening participation in higher education. Through Advantage Tees Valley, it will deliver targeted programmes to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds build their confidence, ambition and skills, and to create graduate-level opportunities across the Tees Valley.
The initiative will bring together business growth and careers support functions in a unique approach to jointly address issues such as aspirations, graduate skills and industry requirements.
It aims to deliver a significant increase in the number of students from under-represented groups accessing graduate-level employment within a year of graduating, while also working with businesses to ensure that graduate skills reflect the demands of the local labour market.
The £222,000 grant from the Office for Students forms part of a £500,000 package supported by the University, with co-investment from other partners, including local business.
The University will work with businesses to provide students with mentoring, work shadowing and leadership training. There will also be workshops to raise aspirations and advice on preparing for internships and opportunities in the local jobs market.
Focus groups will be held with current students to help provide a clearer picture of what influences their decision-making in relation to careers. This work will also extend to potential students visiting the University to encourage them to think about their future career aspirations when considering their study choices.
The scheme will build upon work being already carried out through the Teesside University College Partnership to bring more students from a widening participation background to understand higher education and employment options.**
Working closely with the Tees Valley Careers Hub, Advantage Tees Valley will deliver two teacher and adviser conferences each year with the involvement of local businesses and which reflect the needs of local labour markets.
Another two occupationally themed employer-led days, starting with the digital sector in 2019/20 will be organised for those school students from low participation neighbourhoods. This will be delivered to students who have already been accepted by Teesside University.
Norman Day, Head of Student Futures at Teesside University, said: “We are actively involved in preparing all our students for rewarding careers beyond graduation. This focused work will help to ensure that all our graduates have the best possible start to their working lives, equipped with the social capital and skills that employers are looking for.
“It is essential, given our University mission to transform lives and economies that all our students have equal opportunity to succeed and thrive during and after their time at Teesside University. Advantage Tees Valley is a fantastic scheme and one which will allow us to build on the work already taking place to help shape successful futures for all our student community.”
Laura Woods, Director of Academic Enterprise, added: “Teesside University is an anchor institution and our work with business is one of the key drivers of our continued success.
“We’re delighted to be able to use our business knowledge and expertise to provide even more opportunities to students and graduates from all backgrounds. Advantage Tees Valley gives us a great opportunity to prepare students for successful futures and at the same time to grow the number of local people in high-skilled jobs.”
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “It’s essential local graduates from all backgrounds are supported in their ambitions and into the high-quality jobs of tomorrow that we’re helping to create.
“Advantage Tees Valley is a great, valuable scheme that will broaden the horizons for our home-grown talent and keep them in the area, to the benefit of local businesses. Most of all, it will help to change the lives of those who may need it the most.”
Paul Carbert, Policy Advisor at North East England Chamber of Commerce, added: “This funding award is fantastic news for our region.
“Advantage Tees Valley will support the Chamber’s ambition to create a Working North East by making sure that students are aware of and able to access the many great career opportunities in the region. This project will also help with our work to increase the demand for higher-level skills by businesses to fuel economic growth.
“We work closely with Teesside University as a Partner member of the Chamber, and we are looking forward to working with all of our members to support the University in the delivery of Advantage Tees Valley.”
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