Birmingham City University hosted an event on its campus last week to celebrate the success of its collaborative scheme to boost job prospects for out-of-work graduates across the West Midlands. Representatives from the University were joined by colleagues from Aston University and local employers on May 12 to share their experiences of the Graduate Re-Tune project, which is designed to help unemployed graduates within the region to find work.

It is the only scheme of its kind that sees universities working in partnership with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The initiative arose from a shared desire across both institutions to provide a tailored package of enhanced job-seeking and skills support for those who had recently left university but who were struggling to find appropriate, graduate-level roles – a situation made worse for many by the coronavirus outbreak. The two universities initially joined forces with DWP Jobcentre Plus Birmingham and Solihull District in 2019 to set up Graduate Re-Tune, which is funded by the Office for Students, the independent regulator for higher education in the UK.

Sandeep Solanki, Programme Manager for Graduate Re-Tune at Birmingham University, said: “The Graduate Re-Tune project has successfully delivered a unique partnership between two universities and Jobcentre Plus, further strengthening our longstanding links with local and national employers. Our recent celebratory event showcased how the team positioned themselves to improve the lives of unemployed and underemployed graduates from across the region by providing appropriate, tailored employability and skills support.”

Over the last three years the Graduate Re-Tune project has helped 414 graduates secure full-time employment, 106 gain job placements and 46 take up courses of further study to bolster their skills and improve their prospects.

Shilpi Akbar of Balfour Beatty VINCI, another of the employers involved in Graduate Re-Tune, added: “Graduate Re-Tune has provided us with a prime opportunity to widen our channels for resourcing our programme, with the added benefit of working with a young, diverse population of graduates to help address our skills gaps. Graduate Re-Tune’s partnership with DWP enables us to reach Universal Credit claimants who, particularly following the pandemic, are likely to be at greater risk of long-term unemployment in the absence of focused interventions such as this.” 

Last year, as part of their programme to help unemployed graduates and tackle local skills gaps, the two universities also approached West Midlands Police – one of the largest employers in the region – to secure their support for a bid to become a Graduate Opportunities Gateway Provider as part of the Department for Work and Pensions’ Kickstart Scheme to help employers create jobs for 16- to 24-year-olds. This has led to an ongoing partnership with West Midlands Police, who have recruited 34 graduates into Kickstart placements in roles ranging from forensics and offender management to witness support.

As a result of its success and for consistently outperforming the targets set by the Office for Students, the Graduate Re-Tune project has this year been shortlisted for an Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS) Award for Excellence for 'Building Effective Partnerships'.