Transforming the Midlands one internship at a time

Graduate Advantage
Top row, left to right: Richard Price (Glide Utilities), Professor Helen Higson OBE (Aston University), James Villarreal (Glide Utilities) and Professor Paul Ivey (Birmingham City University) Bottom row, left to right Professor Dame Julia King DBE (Aston University), Jodie Cole (JC Social Media), Nicola Turner (Aston University), Julie Robson (Skills Funding Agency) and Richard Butler (CBI West Midlands)

25 February 2014

Influential business and higher education leaders from the West Midlands gathered to celebrate the decade long success of an Aston University led scheme which has helped launch the careers of more than 3,600 graduates.

Graduate Advantage aims to help small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in the region by assisting the arrangement of graduate internships. Their tenth anniversary event, held at Fazely Studios in Digbeth, was attended by over 100 guests who have contributed to the project, including Aston’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Dame Julia King, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Helen Higson and Director of Employability, Nicola Turner. 

The programme has worked to raise social mobility in the Midlands by helping over 900 graduates out of unemployment in the last three years alone. In doing so, the Graduate Advantage team aims to change graduates attitudes towards working within small, high-growth organisations whilst transforming organisations into graduate recruiters. 

Speaking at the event, Professor Higson said: “Graduate employability is central to Aston University’s strategy and we are extremely proud to be leading the Graduate Advantage initiative. It is lovely to see so many faces from the past and present and hear so many success stories. It has been an uplifting experience and we keenly look forward to the future.”   

Graduate Advantage is the longest running and largest graduate internship provider in the UK, engaging with over 29,000 graduates and 18,000 businesses. In that time, it has also given nearly £600,000 of grants and subsidies to regional organisations. 

The scheme was initially devised as a reaction to the ‘Brain Drain’ of the early noughties, where talented young people left the West Midlands for roles in London. The project was piloted as a way of raising demand for higher-level skills to attract and retain graduates and boost productivity. 

Anil Patel, former marketing intern at the charity, Sandwell Mind, said: “I always thought large organisations were the way forward but after my internship I realised small businesses allow you greater freedom to implement your own ideas. It feels like career progression is more achievable. You really do think you can make it to the top.” 

Sue Clarke, Managing Director of Midland Technical Translations, added: “Having once been recruited through Graduate Advantage myself, I would urge others to get in touch with them. They really have helped me so much in my career. I entered as a graduate and now I am an employer.” 

Also present at the anniversary event to deliver graduate employer presentations were Richard Price and James Villarreal of Glide Utilities and Jodie Cole and Jason Whyley of JC Social Media. 

Graduate Advantage is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and supported by a number of universities and university colleges in the West Midlands. 


For further media information, please contact Jonathan Garbett, Aston University Communications on 0121 204 4552 or 

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