A £1m training and skills initiative aimed at helping businesses and professionals beat the recession will open at Kingston University next month.
The initiative, which will be based at the University’s Penrhyn Road campus, will help unemployed graduates, professionals at risk of redundancy and people wanting to change career to find work, retrain or set up their own businesses. Firms will also be offered advice on how to ensure their staff have the right skills and training.
The scheme was the brainchild of Kingston University, which worked with Kingston Chamber of Commerce, Kingston College, the Royal Borough of Kingston, South London Lifelong Learning Network and Job Centre Plus to bid for Government money from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). HEFCE has awarded the project a £430,397 grant, with matched funding of £343,712 coming from the University, £95,000 from the Council, £14,256 from the College and £20,000 from the Chamber of Commerce.
The project aims to help more than 3,000 professionals during the next 18 months through a range of schemes including one-to-one careers advice for all graduates living in the area and “skills vouchers” to help Kingston graduates pay for short courses or training. Graduates will also be able to attend workshops on updating their CVs, interview techniques and pitching for jobs. Bursaries will be offered to help pay for taster sessions and foundation modules and an internship scheme will pay companies offering work experience to graduates, who will receive a living allowance.
The team has promised to set up the project within six weeks, as a rapid response to rising graduate unemployment. Graduate vacancies in London are expected to drop by 5.4 per cent during 2009.
Deborah Lock, the University’s executive director of enterprise, said the project was a forward-looking enterprise that would help Kingston to thrive in spite of the economic downturn. "It’s incredibly positive and it’s not all doom and gloom, we’re looking to the future by giving students and graduates in Kingston the biggest advantage they could have in terms of training and skills," she said. "You will see an impact really quickly."
Ms Lock added that the scheme would also benefit the wider community. "Most regions want to keep graduates in the area because a thriving graduate base means a thriving business area. This scheme will help Kingston to do just that," she stressed.
Neil Latham, Kingston University’s pro vice-chancellor for employer engagement, said the project offered a unique solution to local needs. "Job centres are finding it difficult to deal with the needs of professionals and graduates – they don’t have the capacity or the kind of vacancies that executives and managers are looking for," he said. "This project will provide for the first time in Kingston, a one-stop shop where all the education, training and business support services are under one roof."
Graduates would be able to come in and have a one to one consultation with a graduate career specialist where they would have an opportunity to look at their skills and their degree and where they wanted to go, he said. "They will then get advice on how to get there, which might include support for taster courses or advice on setting up their own business."
Kingston is one of more than 70 universities and colleges to have received cash from HEFCE’s £27 million Economic Challenge Investment Fund. Announcing the awards, David Lammy, the minister for higher education said the creation of new internships was an important part of the Government’s proposals to boost the number of work placements for students graduating this summer. "Universities have demonstrated across the country that they are central to the fiscal stimulus that local communities, businesses, families and young people need," he added.