‘Rise’ – This is your time and place…
The Guardian award-winning Rise project offered students a flexible way of developing their distinctiveness and career-readiness. Students could add bespoke experiences and expertise to their degree.
As part of the OfS’s ‘Improving outcomes for local graduates’ Challenge Competition, Manchester Metropolitan University and University of Manchester worked collaboratively to improve the digital skills, confidence and employment prospects of local graduates through their ‘Graduates for a greater Manchester’ project.
The collaboration was designed to address the skills gap in Manchester’s technology and creative digital sector which is one of the city’s fastest growing sectors. The project's aim was to help local graduates who are studying non-digital subjects boost their confidence in these industries by harnessing, enhancing, and using the digital skills they already have.
Each institution delivered its own project:
- Rise (Manchester Metropolitan University)
- The Careers Self-Efficacy Programme (University of Manchester).
These were new, accredited, curriculum interventions focused on enhancing experiential learning for graduate employability prospects.
This case study will focus on the ‘Rise’ project.
Greater Manchester has fast growing technological and creative digital clusters, with a strong demand for graduates with technological skills.
When the project was being developed there were 80,000 roles across the region for people working in the sector, making it the largest digital and technological hub outside of London. However, a large number of small and medium enterprises in Greater Manchester were reporting challenges in accessing graduate talent.
This sector is set to grow faster than the national average in the next decade, creating more work in specialist digital roles as well as opportunities in other areas such as in finance and human resources.
Recent research1 shows that there are skills shortages in Greater Manchester, but there is also evidence of under-utilisation of skills and graduate underemployment.
Additionally, there is a need to integrate the responses to these challenges, with partnerships between local universities and employers playing a crucial role.
The ‘Graduates for a greater Manchester’ project sought to address this challenge in supply and demand.
Following a successful move to online delivery due to the impact of coronavirus, Rise addressed the Greater Manchester digital skills challenge by offering students a flexible way of developing their distinctiveness and career readiness.
As 22 per cent of graduates entering digital or technological roles are from a non-related degree (Manchester Digital Skills Audit, 2020), Rise targeted students from non-digital programmes to take part in a range of employer-led digital activities.
Working alongside key employer partners and small and medium enterprises from the Greater Manchester region, over 600 students from a wide variety of non-digital courses (including education studies and accounting and finance) took part in projects and challenges such as the ‘Creative tourism’ live project set by SharpFutures.
This two-week remote placement challenged students with a brief to create new and interesting experiences for a client within the tourism sector. The students took part in a range of master classes delivered by industry professionals to help them tackle their brief. Areas included branding, marketing, finance, logistics and pitching, as well as podcasting and design thinking sessions.
The activities were adapted to take place in a coronavirus-safe environment by using virtual alternatives both internally and through the Rise website.
Here is what some of the students said about their SharpFutures experience through the Rise programme:
'I found the placement really informative and it was great. I learned that I can transfer my degree into many different disciplines.'
'I enjoyed the placement thoroughly, I got to learn and implement learnings in a different scenario via the online platform Zoom, which allowed many of us to execute tasks differently to usual physical work settings.'
Manchester Metropolitan University is one of the leading universities for the inclusivity of disadvantaged students currently underrepresented in higher education (HESA, 2019). In 2018-19, almost 1,000 full-time undergraduate students from the university (14.4 per cent) came from the 20 per cent lowest participation postcodes (against a benchmark of 12.8 per cent).
Although the university’s delivery of Rise was significantly impacted by coronavirus, and face-to-face activities had to be postponed, the project successfully adapted to an online model of learning pathways which was developed with input from the industry and city region.
Engagement shows that 25 per cent of students who took part in Rise during summer 2020 came from low participation postcodes - demonstrating above-average representation from disadvantaged students taking part in the project.
Rise has successfully demonstrated above-average representation from disadvantaged students taking part in the project. Going forward, Manchester Metropolitan University is proactively promoting Rise to its wider student population, having now transitioned from a strategic project to business as usual.
Although within a challenging landscape, the project team is looking forward to supporting students to improve their digital skills, confidence and employment prospects by collaborating further with employer partners whilst also supporting the local Greater Manchester economy.
In November 2020, Rise won the Guardian Award for course design, retention and student outcomes.
1 Research: Christie, F. and Lupton, B., 2020. ‘Tech and Creative Digital’: Labour Market Trends and graduate skills in Greater Manchester. Manchester Metropolitan University.
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