Improving outcomes for local graduates

Our industrial strategy and skills Challenge Competition invited higher education providers to identify ways of improving outcomes for graduates seeking skilled employment in their home region. 

We launched the competition in 2019 and awarded £5.6 million to 16 different projects, bringing together more than 100 different universities, colleges and other organisations - including local economic partnerships, job agencies and students' unions. The projects completed in 2022.

A key part of the programme was evaluating the impacts of the projects and sharing outputs so that higher education providers can apply the lessons to their own support for students and graduates.

We have now published the final evaluation report from our independent evaluators, alongside case studies and resources developed by the projects. 

Read the final evaluation report

Details of the funded projects

GradTalent Development Agency

This project sought to address the proportion of regionally retained graduates going into low skilled work whilst increasing the number of small and medium-sized enterprises employing graduates through a GradTalent recruitment, retention and development agency.

It did this through placements, specialist graduate recruitment services and a business partner model to help local employers, specifically small and medium enterprises, develop their graduate talent.

Graduate Re-tune

This project identified ways to better manage graduate transitions from higher education to employment. It designed and deployed 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.

Resources were developed through the project to support both work coaches and graduates, including a catalogue of online provision and resources, and a regular newsletter publicising local graduate level opportunities.

The following articles highlight some of the achievements of the Graduate Re-tune project:

Website: Graduate Re-tune

Transformation West Midlands

Working initially with key economic sectors, developing to include a wider range of employers, this project built a new talent pipeline to diversify the local workforce, identifying and targeting students most in need of support and providing them with progression coaching and a personalised programme to support them with transition post-graduation.

Among other activities, graduate and student participants provided reverse mentoring to businesses to inform and facilitate leadership and skills development and to challenge barriers to inclusivity within organisations.

Case study: Transforming the West Midlands through 'reverse mentoring'

Graduate Workforce Bradford

This project addressed the unemployment and underemployment of black, Asian and minority ethnic graduates within the Bradford Metropolitan District, and the recruitment, skill gap and diversity challenges of three priority sectors of the local labour market - social care, engineering and manufacturing, and public services (education, social work, police).

It did this through business development, graduate coaching interventions, sector and community employment events, and an action research element, which aimed to identify the extent of place and culture-based decision making in ethnic minority student and graduate career choices.

Website: Graduate Workforce Bradford Project


This project supported local graduates with low mobility to progress into graduate employment in the local small and medium-sized enterprise sector in the Kent and Medway region. It did this through a personal development programme for students and graduates, and an enhanced recruitment service for employers.

Students were offered coaching, peer support and pre-interview support. Post-employment support was also offered to both employers and graduates. 

Website: GradForce - Canterbury Christ Church University

Case study: GradForce project: Engaging employers

Improving Graduate Outcomes in Health and Social Care on the North Yorkshire Coast

This project addressed the workforce shortfall in health and nursing in the North Yorkshire coastal region, delivering a radical increase in the number of local graduates going into the health and social care sector.

This was achieved through building a new successful pathway from before application to university, with significant outreach work with pre-higher education students, through to increased career and employability support with key partners - including the NHS, NYCC, the CCG and the independent care sector - as well as the development of three new vocationally-focused degree courses.

Leicester’s Future Leaders

This project aimed to reduce Leicester's black, Asian and minority ethnic leadership gap through a variety of entry talent, management and leadership development interventions.

The project engaged and upskilled local employers through the creation of an online inclusive recruitment toolkit and by offering business consultancy services, whilst developing students through an internship accelerator programme and supporting graduates with in-work mentoring.

The project has revealed clear appetite among businesses for consultancy to adopt inclusive recruitment methods and has led to a change in students’ views about staying in Leicester after graduating.

The project received the following awards and nominations:

The following articles highlight some of the achievements of the project:

Website: Legacy plan for Leicester's Future Leaders

Video: Reflections following an event celebrating the success of the project

Case study: Leicester's Future Leaders: Going further with student engagement

Gateways to Growth (G2G)

The Gateways to Growth project focused on supporting the transition of graduates into local small and medium-sized enterprises, by addressing specific labour market needs and skills gaps as identified by the provider's strategic and delivery partners.

Through interlinked and inter-dependent schemes they developed a small and medium-sized enterprise dedicated recruitment service, a pilot innovation hub internship scheme and enhanced professional support, including a web portal, application support and career guidance, peer support, a recruitment fair and employer visits.

Website: Gateway To Growth

Case study: Interview with Henry Opina, Gateway to Growth intern

WRIPA-PLUS (PLaces+Universities=Success)

This partnership developed and tested a range of inclusive mechanisms to connect physics students with technologically strategic local small and medium-sized enterprises. The project involved supporting curriculum developments in the five partner universities, embedding inclusive modes of work-based learning, professional skills development and employer delivery into the physics curriculum.

In addition to providing tools and information to students via their website, the project also developed employer networks and student engagement activities which included some activities specifically designed to support underrepresented students.

Website: White Rose Industrial Physics Academy

Embedding a high skilled workforce in Greater Lincolnshire

This project aimed to increase student-employer engagement and improve connections between both partner universities and local businesses. The project developed a number of consultancy-type projects designed by local businesses, offering students a unique opportunity to work in multi-disciplinary teams and pitch their solutions to medium to large businesses across the region.

Support included student bursaries to ensure participation of disadvantaged students. Project outcomes will inform the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership (GLLEP) area graduate attraction strategies, connecting to the region's economic growth strategies through the GLLEP local authority partners.

Case study: The small and medium enterprise and surviving coronavirus

Digital Grad Accelerator

This project aimed to close the digital skills gap between employer demand and graduate skills, by recruiting local commuter students each year for a digital skills internship. This involved a mix of training sessions, employer visits, mentoring and a work placement. The students also worked on a research project with employers to identify and explore digital skills gaps in the region.

After the internship each student worked as a ‘digital coach’ at the university providing workshops to other students focused on the skills gaps identified during the research project. A digital summit was also held on an annual basis to engage further students and regional stakeholders in the project.

Graduates for a Greater Manchester

This project aimed to 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 small and medium-sized enterprises, predominantly in the creative and digital sectors.

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

Manchester Metropolitan's RISE scheme won the Guardian University Award for Course Design, Retention and Student Outcomes in 2020.

The following articles highlight some of the achievements of the Graduates for a Greater Manchester project:

Website: Research: Graduate careers and employability

Case study: ‘Rise’ – This is your time and place…

Stay and Succeed North East

This project sought to address regional skills gaps by engaging with local students and employers, securing a better understanding of the needs of the two, and facilitating connections between them.

Internships were created for Level 6 students in the fields of digital technology and engineering, through which the project sought spin-off benefits in the form of curriculum improvement, enhanced careers resources, and a programme of events, including three engineering showcase events.

Creative Pathways

Working closely with Nottingham's Strategic Cultural Partnership, this project encouraged students and graduates to engage with careers in the creative and cultural sectors by increasing the diversity of its Midlands workforce, improving awareness of career opportunities, and building sustainability through partnerships to support graduate retention. 

It did so through new graduate internships, new career pathways and the creation of a new Creative Academy, which developed a programme of three careers events per year which were focused on the creative and cultural sector and featured engagement with a range of local and national employers. 

See films from the project:

Website: Creative Pathways | Lakeside Arts, Nottingham

Recruitment Solution

The Recruitment Solution project aimed to support the transition of graduates into local businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). An employer hub was created to provide support for SMEs and large businesses to assist with graduate and student recruitment.

Students were supported to develop their employability skills through the creation of an online course, individualised careers support, and through employability modules created and embedded into disciplinary course provision. Student ambassadors worked with the university and businesses to undertake research into the needs of SMEs.

Advantage Tees Valley

This project aimed to 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 to broaden student horizons amongst target groups and to grow awareness of and engagement with the local labour market. These activities included workshops, mentoring, alumni events and leadership training.

Employers were engaged to support and deliver co- and extra-curricular employability activities and graduate internships were developed for recent graduates.

Website: Advantage Tees Valley

Case study: Graduate internships: navigating the virtual landscape

For more information about these projects, please contact [email protected].

Published 16 May 2019
Last updated 18 September 2023
18 September 2023
Added link to evaluation report
25 February 2020
Updated contacts for three providers

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