Professional development specialists from the University of Chester are developing a project to help recent graduates meet the challenges of today’s job market, while giving businesses across Cheshire, Warrington and Halton access to additional short-term staff.

Having secured £168,322 from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) Economic Challenge Investment Fund (ECIF), and working in collaboration with Job Centre Plus (JCP) Cheshire and Warrington, the initiative aims to use the University’s expertise immediately to help address the regional fallout from the recession.

It should also help individuals and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to use, or take advantage of, specialist skills now - and also to prepare for further success in more settled times.

There are various elements to the scheme:


An intensive, targeted, postgraduate course in Business, Innovation and Development, taught by experts at the University and covering aspects such as project leadership and management, planning, research and funding, marketing and promotions, enterprise and innovation, promoting entrepreneurship and risk assessment and management. JCP staff will automatically direct new graduates to this programme.


Integrated, structured work placements in priority industrial and commercial companies across the region, to enable new graduates to put their analytical skills into practise in support of bespoke projects identified as enhancing operational performance by businesses which either lack the capacity to undertake these themselves, or are seeking a fresh, dynamic approach. This could include tasks as varied as new product development, customer market analysis, developing marketing plans, designing company literature and websites, setting up accountancy or IT systems or conducting environmental audits.


One-to-one coaching and career planning for graduates, improving employability within an increasingly competitive labour market.

Professor Tim Wheeler, the University’s Vice-Chancellor, welcomed today’s funding announcement and said: “The University of Chester has long embraced its clear role in fostering the establishment and growth of companies; in working with existing companies both on the application of the latest technology and the successful application of more tried and tested technologies and in working with business to develop the skills of the workforce at technical and professional levels.

“HEFCE’s Economic Challenge Investment Fund complements the University’s principles of corporate social responsibility and provides a toolkit for new graduates eager to share their expertise and for businesses unable to recruit at this point in time to benefit from additional resources.

“The University is increasingly a key contributor to the well-being of the local economy, both tangibly, in terms of its stance as a major employer and consumer of services, and more indirectly, with the influence it has on the transfer of knowledge and skills, so vital for a thriving economy.

“Although the ECIF will provide rapid action and short-term support, this is intended to be a longer-term investment, rather than a ‘quick fix,’ acknowledging the added value which graduates bring to the workplace.

“Economic conditions mean that employers will depend more than ever on the talents and abilities of their staff – not only to ensure they survive the forthcoming period, but also, more importantly, that they are well-positioned to emerge from the downturn prepared, stronger and ready to seize any competitive advantage.”

The programme will be funded to operate over the next 18 months, after which it will become self-sustaining.

David Lammy, Minister of State for Higher Education, commented: “Universities have demonstrated across the country that they are central to the fiscal stimulus that local communities, businesses, families and young people need, and are clearly showing that they can provide a lifeline in these challenging times.”

Sir Alan Langlands, HEFCE’s Chief Executive, added: “This shows that higher education can respond swiftly to the needs of the local communities it services. We set universities and college a tough task, giving them just four weeks to develop and and submit their proposals, but they responded with enthusiasm and imagination, with 120 bids in total.”