OfS Challenge Competition: Industrial Strategy and skills

This portfolio of support for local graduates involves 16 projects across England. Through a range of initiatives, including curriculum interventions and internships, the projects will support the transition to highly skilled employment and improve outcomes for graduates who seek employment in their home region.

Details of funded projects

This project will address the proportion of regionally retained graduates going into low skilled work whilst increasing the number of SMEs employing graduates through a GradTalent recruitment, retention and development agency.

It will do so through placements, recruitment activities and a business partner model to help businesses develop their graduate talent.


The lead provider, Bath Spa University, will work in partnership with:

  • University of Bath
  • Bath College
  • Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership

Barrie Grey, email [email protected]

This project will explore the causes of local graduate unemployment and under-employment, and exploit this intelligence to design and pilot new progression and support pathways that tackle the skills gaps and personal barriers Job Centre Plus graduate customers face and help them re-engage with the graduate jobs market.

Initial findings will identify ways to better manage graduate transitions from higher education to employment; design and deploy new and improved graduate progression and support pathways, which address the barriers graduates face when seeking to make the transition from higher education to a graduate job.


The lead provider, Birmingham City University, will work in partnership with:

  • Aston University
  • Department for Work and Pensions, Jobcentre Plus (JCP) Birmingham and Solihull District
  • Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP)

Andrew Davis, email [email protected]

Working closely with the key economic sectors, this project will build a new diverse talent pipeline to diversify their workforce and test a more innovative approach in creating an eco-system that leads to greater social mobility and higher level graduate employment.

With initial focus on the Birmingham Professional and Financial Services Sector, followed by Life Sciences, to fully understand sector needs through two-way dialogue, raising awareness, ambitions, challenging perceptions and creating opportunities.


The lead provider, University of Birmingham, will work in partnership with:

  • University College Birmingham (UCB)
  • Newman University (NU)
  • LifeStart from Virgin
  • Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP)
  • BPS Birmingham
  • UpRising

Eluned Jones, email [email protected]

This project will address the unemployment and underemployment of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) graduates within the Bradford Metropolitan District (BMD), and the recruitment, skill gap and diversity challenges of three priority sectors of the BMD labour market - Social Care, Engineering and Manufacturing, and the Public Services (Education, Social Work, Police).

It will do so through business development and graduate coaching interventions, as well as sector and community employment events. 


The lead provider, University of Bradford, will work in partnership with:

  • University of Bradford Students’ Union (UBU)
  • Bradford Council Skills House
  • Bradford Council Integrated Communities Programme (IC)
  • Education Development Trust (LEP Career Hub)
  • DWP
  • Bradford Chamber of Commerce
  • Bradford Health and Social Care Economic Partnership
  • West Yorkshire Police
  • QED
  • Khidmat Centre
  • Bradford Trident Opportunity Area

Joanne Beaumont, email [email protected]

This project will support local graduates with low mobility to progress into graduate employment in the local SME sector and increase the number of graduate jobs in Kent and Medway overall. It will do so through coaching programmes, enhanced recruitment service and post-employment support during the first six months to accelerate transition into the SME.


The lead provider, Canterbury Christ Church University, will work in partnership with:

  • London and South East Colleges
  • Mid Kent College
  • Hadlow Group
  • East Kent College
  • North Kent College
  • Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce
  • Grit: breakthrough programmes
  • SMEs in Kent and Medway
  • CCCU Students' Union

Sophie Chadwick, email [email protected]

This project will deliver a radical increase in the number of local graduates going into the health and social care sector on the North Yorkshire coast by building on the success of their current programme. 

This will be achieved through building an innovative pathway from before application to university, through to successful graduate-level employment with key partners - including the NHS, NYCC, the CCG and the independent care sector - as well as developing new courses and degree apprenticeships.


The lead provider, Coventry University, will work in partnership with:

  • York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • North Yorkshire County Council
  • NHS Scarborough and Ryedale Clinical Commissioning Group
  • Independent Care Group (York and North Yorkshire)
  • Scarborough VI Form College
  • Scarborough Tec (including North Yorkshire Care Academy)
  • Saint Cecilia’s Care Services
  • Coventry University Students’ Union

Mathew Butterworth, email [email protected].

This project will reduce the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) leadership gap in Leicester through a variety of entry talent, management and leadership development interventions.

This includes developing and delivering an innovative programme of training and resources embedding fair practices in recruitment and retention processes, delivering 60 x 6-week graduate internships for BAME graduates targeting skills gaps, working with businesses who have not previously hosted graduate interns and implementing a mentoring programme for BAME graduates on-boarding to graduate roles in Leicester.


The lead provider, De Montfort University, will work in partnership with:

  • Freeths LLP
  • Brewin Dolphin Ltd
  • Eileen Richards Recruitment
  • Elevation Networks Trust
  • The Prince’s Trust
  • Access Generation CIC

Adele Browne, email [email protected]

Gateways to Growth (G2G): Unlocking Talent in Norfolk, will result in a step change in opportunities for all UEA graduates who remain in the local area by addressing specific labour market needs and skills gaps as identified by our strategic and delivery partners.

Through interlinked and inter-dependent schemes they will develop an SME dedicated recruitment service, a pilot innovation hub internship scheme and enhanced professional support.


The lead provider, University of East Anglia, will work in partnership with:

  • UEA Careers, Enterprise Centre
  • New Anglia LEP
  • Chamber of Commerce
  • Norfolk County Council
  • Norwich City Council
  • South Norfolk Council
  • UUEA Students' Union
  • Hethel Innovation Centre (Business Incubator)
  • Kings Lynn Innovation Centre (KLIC)
  • Cambridge Norwich Tech Corridor
  • St Georges Works (Our Place)

Julie Schofield, email [email protected]

This partnership will develop and test a range of inclusive mechanisms to connect physics students with technologically strategic local SMEs.

Through a variety of placements and student support, the project aims to increase the number of physics graduates in graduate-level employment in Yorkshire and the Humber and the East Midlands from 55 per cent to 85 per cent.


The lead provider, University of Hull, will work in partnership with:

  • University of York
  • University of Sheffield
  • University of Leeds
  • University of Nottingham
  • BetaChain
  • Humber LEP
  • Rofin-Sinar
  • Jesmond Engineering
  • Lampada / Evoco DS

Brad Gibson, email [email protected].

This project will develop 30 ‘real world’ industry/business challenges through partnership work across the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership (GLLEP) region, offering 130 GLLEP students a unique opportunity to work in multi-disciplinary teams and pitch their solutions to medium to large businesses across the GLLEP region.

Support will include student bursaries to ensure participation of disadvantaged students. Project outcomes will inform GLLEP area graduate attraction strategies, connecting to the region’s economic growth strategies through the GLLEP local authority partners.


The lead provider, University of Lincoln, will work in partnership with:

  • Bishop Grosseteste University
  • North Lincolnshire
  • West Lindsay District and East Lindsay District Councils
  • Siemens Plc
  • Tulip Ltd
  • Bourne Leisure Ltd (Butlins)
  • Micronclean Ltd
  • Lindum Group Ltd

Mark Stow, email [email protected]

This project will close the digital skills gap between employer demand and graduate skills by engaging over 200 local business stakeholders across the region, training 18 students per year to be Digital Skills Champions and delivering digital skills training, through these champions, and in partnership with regional employers.

This programme will offer students an opportunity to be upskilled to fill a variety of entry level digital roles.


The lead provider, University of Liverpool, will work in partnership with:

  • Agent Academy CIC
  • Sci-Tech Daresbury
  • Liverpool City Region LEP
  • Unilever
  • Baabar
  • LAB by Capacity
  • MSB Solicitors

Emma Moore, email [email protected]

This partnership will improve the employability of disadvantaged students studying and domiciled in the Greater Manchester city region, by delivering intensive aspiration-raising and skills development interventions in partnership with local SMEs, predominantly in the creative, digital industries.

This includes new, accredited, curriculum interventions and workshops in two domains that are important in the graduate labour market: digital literacy and interpersonal communicative confidence.


The lead provider, Manchester Metropolitan University, will work in partnership with:

  • University of Manchester
  • Manchester Digital
  • Greater Manchester Combined Authority
  • Greater Manchester LEP / Skills Hub
  • Manchester City Council
  • Sharp Futures
  • Manchester Met Students’ Union
  • UoM Students’ Union
  • Higher Education Careers Service Unit (HECSU)

Stephen Boyd, email [email protected]

Through strategic engagement the project will develop curriculum content, programmes of study and information, advice and guidance to ensure that North East graduates can access higher level employment in their home locality.

Initially, this will be achieved by creating 18 internships for Level 6 students in the fields of digital technology and engineering, which will then be used as a strategic vehicle by which new collaborative networks can be formed between the college and regional employers.


The lead provider, Newcastle College University Centre, will work in partnership with:

  • North East Automotive Alliance
  • Dynamo
  • EEF
  • Digital Catapult

Cecelia Holmes, email [email protected].

Working closely with Nottingham’s Strategic Cultural Partnership, this project will develop, encourage and retain talented graduates in the creative sector by increasing the diversity of its Midlands workforce, improving awareness of career opportunities, and building sustainability through partnerships to support graduate retention. 

It will do so through new graduate internships, new career pathways and creation of a new Creative Academy.


The lead provider, University of Nottingham, will work in partnership with:

  • Dance4
  • Nottingham Playhouse
  • Nottingham Contemporary
  • Nonsuch Theatre
  • City Arts
  • UNESCO City of Literature
  • SCP Partners
  • UoN/NLA

Shona Powell OBE, email [email protected]

Through strong and mutually beneficial partnerships with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across the region, this project will significantly increase the number of mature students, part-time students and minority groups employed or retained locally.

The project will create a recruitment supply chain across the Greater Peterborough area that increases graduate recruitment with mutual attraction between SMEs and graduates, developing a rolling curriculum that embeds employability and skills to enhance employment prospects and creating a sustainable model that can be adopted by other universities and continued after funding.


The lead provider, University Centre Peterborough, will work in partnership with:

  • Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce
  • The Skills Service
  • Opportunity Peterborough.

Katie McAllister, email [email protected]

This project will increase the number of students from underrepresented groups accessing local graduate-level employment within a year of graduation by testing a range of practical measures that will broaden student horizons amongst target groups and, growing awareness of and engagement with the local labour market amongst students and graduates from underrepresented groups.

Through local partnerships with the LEP and Chambers of Commerce, the project will deliver employability programmes and provide work shadowing and mentoring in the workplace to more than 400 students per year.


The lead provider, Teesside University, will work in partnership with:

  • Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA)
  • North East England Chamber of Commerce
  • Teesside University College Partners – Darlington, Hartlepool, Redcar and Cleveland and Stockton Riverside
  • A range of strategic employer partners, including Fujifilm Diosynth, CPI, BMI Healthcare, Double 11 Games, Cleveland and Durham Fire and Police Services

Laura Woods, email [email protected]

Last updated 25 February 2020
25 February 2020
Updated contacts for three providers

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