A project which has created scores of jobs in the Liverpool City Region is being described as a "new blueprint" for graduate employment.
Graduate Futures has created more than 200 graduate-level posts in growth sectors such as creative and cultural, digital, biomedical and professional services and has engaged an impressive 1,843 students, to date, seeking to thrive in the job market.
The scheme which matches graduates with SMEs (companies with fewer than 250 employees) has highlighted the value of having highly-skilled graduates on the doorstep and has convinced many businesses of the potential of working with higher education.
Paul Cherpeau, CEO of Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, said: “Graduate Futures has provided an invaluable offering to businesses within the Liverpool City Region, providing a pipeline of talent for organisations desperately seeking a skilled, energised and flexible workforce amid an unprecedentedly tight labour market.”
Equally, the project is influencing how graduates themselves perceive the job market, opening their eyes to the potential of different paths to fulfilling careers.
Graduate Futures, initiated by the university’s careers and employability team Student Futures, is managed by Shulah Jones who believes students now see a different landscape for opportunity: “A lot is said about brain-drain to London in particular but it is far from inevitable. Graduates want to stay; they’ve had a brilliant time in Liverpool and many worry about the cost of living in the capital.
"Our mission is to support local employers who may not have considered the extent of the talent pool in the region, and similarly our graduates are sometimes unaware of the wealth of potential employment opportunities with small to medium businesses right here.
"We are showing students that the graduate job market is not just about big-name employers" - Shulah Jones, Manager, Graduate Futures
The value of this project has been through facilitating a closer relationship between our university and employers, nurturing a truly collaborative approach to graduate-level recruitment.”
In many cases, the team has shown businesses how they can grow their workforce and support the local economy by joining up the dots between university and business.
In some instances, businesses have created new roles that they hadn’t realised they could fund to help their business grow: “We’ve simply shone a light on what a graduate could do for them, whether it’s new ideas, a skill they didn’t have on staff or knowledge someone can bring of a new technology,” added Shulah.
"We’ve also worked with students and graduates to show them that the graduate job market is not just about big-name employers, in fact, in the Liverpool City Region a large majority of the economy is made up of SMEs.”
Graduate Futures has also channelled funding to organise networks and events with bodies like The Growth Platform and Chambers of Commerce, and has plugged in to local employment strategies of the Combined Authority as well as the local authorities.
With businesses worried about costs and overheads, the scheme has encouraged them to take on LJMU students and graduates by subsidising the salaries. Firms are reimbursed 50% of staff costs for LJMU placements with the hope the business will take on the graduate permanently.
The project draws to a close this autumn when European Social Fund cash is phased out but it has already fostered a new appreciation of LJMU’s value and contribution to the business community and created new partnerships that nurture prosperity in areas of the Liverpool city region where there are hubs of SMEs looking to grow.
“Our focus on the needs of the business and their growth potential has allowed us to bring a new dimension to graduate recruitment through enabling greater input by employers in the careers guidance and support on offer," added Shulah Jones.
“When the project comes to an end later this year, it is hoped its legacy will carry on as LJMU and employers think more about their mutual interest in creating jobs for growth and thereby increasing economic prosperity.”
And Paul Cherpeau believes the model is a winning one in the future: “Organisations consistently cite access to talent and skills as their primary barrier to growth within the currently tumultuous trading environment. LJMU’s Graduate Futures Scheme has helped alleviate some of these challenges, providing a simplified proposition for participating businesses whilst reducing their risks within the recruitment, selection and employment process.
“It is important that businesses continue to have supported access to the graduate market in the city to maximise our retention of a talented current and future workforce.
“Let’s also celebrate the role of SMEs as hosts and developers of graduate talent in the city-region.
He said, overall, the Graduate Futures project had “introduced new and innovative practices to the employer-engagement experience which will improve our capability to achieve these objectives now and in the future.”
LJMU Graduate Futures is part-funded by the European Social Fund.
For more information, see the Graduate Futures website.