Birmingham universities offer free talent, training and support services to local SMEs


A new £3.3 million business skills and growth project led by Birmingham City University launches next week, providing local companies with access to graduate recruits, interns and project staff with the skills businesses need to grow.

The Higher Level Skills Match (HLSM) Project is designed with and for businesses, supporting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) area and part-funded by the European Social Fund (ESF).

Business services

Birmingham City University

Unique collaboration

HLSM is a collaborative venture between Birmingham City, Aston and Newman universities, along with Cannock Chase, Lichfield and Tamworth local authorities, who have come together in partnership to tackle the growing rift between the skills businesses will need in the future and the skills that job applicants and the current workforce actually have.

This is the first time that local companies have been able to access the graduate talent pool and business support services of all three Birmingham-based universities through one, easy to navigate and free of charge service.

In turn, local companies will be actively encouraged to contribute to the design of Higher Education (HE) skills provision, to ensure it responds effectively to business needs, and to share their insights on the current and future demand for higher skills with the GBSLEP’s Employment and Skills Board.

Business support

Launching at iCentrum on Wednesday 11 October, the HLSM project will provide bespoke graduate level skills development, recruitment and advice services, drawn from an extensive portfolio of HE skills provision. The range of support offered to SMEs in the GBSLEP area will include:

  • developing the leadership, decision making, business development, enterprise and sustainable growth skills companies require to grow their business, and share fully in the economic growth opportunities forecast for the GBSLEP areas between 2017 and 2022;
  • accessing the range of higher level skills that are essential to the future prosperity of local businesses, and which only graduates and postgraduates can offer;
  • contributing to the GBSLEP’s vision to ensure local skill provision is designed with and for business, to better meet current and future skills demand;
  • contributing to, and benefitting directly from, tailored employability and enterprise skills support offered to local undergraduates, graduates and postgraduates.

Professor Julian Beer, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Birmingham City University, said:

“Birmingham has an impressive track record of start-ups, and was dubbed earlier this year the ‘most entrepreneurial city outside London’ by StartUp Britain. In fact, more than 17,000 new companies were created in the city in 2016 – the highest number outside the capital for the fourth year in a row. As these businesses grow, the next challenge will be to ensure they have access to the skilled employees they need to be able to deliver on new contracts and sales.

“Our innovative and collaborative Higher Level Skills Project offers a range of support and new ways to engage with the skills agenda, so that local businesses can access the talent they need, while at the same time, ensure their voice is heard.

Single point of contact

HLSM will offer local SMEs a single point of contact through which they can access a range of different skills and business support services delivered by Birmingham City University, Aston University and Newman University. SMEs will receive 1-2-1 account management support, to ensure they can access the most appropriate skills and business support services, in the shortest possible time.

A recent report, produced by Birmingham City University think-tank the Institute for Design and Economic Acceleration (IDEA), highlighted that 30 per cent of organisations within the West Midlands are unable to recruit to meet their needs as a result of the current skills gap.

For more information and to book a place at the HLSM launch, visit Eventbrite. 

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