Josh Downey

BA (Hons) American and Canadian Studies and History with a Year Abroad, University of Birmingham 

Why I applied

Before applying for the Graduate Management Training Scheme, I held a number of part-time and summer roles at the University whilst studying for my degree. Through these experiences, I was exposed to just how dynamic, challenging and rewarding a career in Higher Education can be, and with its ambitious and exciting plans for the future, I knew that the University of Birmingham was the perfect place to kick start my career.


As a Graduate Management Trainee, you have a unique opportunity to get involved in a wide range of strategic projects that allow you to rapidly build your skills, develop your confidence and engage with a diverse network of people. I always knew that I wanted to work for an organisation where my work would be both meaningful and impactful and, twelve months into the Scheme, I can certainly say that has been the case! 


A highlight of the Scheme for me is the opportunities for professional development, both formal and informal. Since becoming a Management Trainee, I’ve completed courses on everything from taking minutes and facilitating meetings, to leading without formal authority and developing resilience. I’ve also had the opportunity to learn first-hand from senior leaders and to support the University at key points throughout the academic year, including Open Days and Clearing.

One of the best things about the Scheme is the support you can find in both current and former Management Trainees. Not only are they a very friendly bunch of people, but they’re also a great source of support. Having been in my position before, they can relate to the experiences that I’m going through and offer practical advice to help me overcome challenges and make the most out of every opportunity.

Top Tips

  • Be yourself! Management Trainees come from lots of different backgrounds and degree disciplines, so think about the skills and experiences that you can bring to the Scheme and what makes you stand out from the crowd.

  • Be prepared to be stretched and challenged…we often say that learning starts at the edge of your comfort zone.

  • As an American and Canadian Studies and History graduate, the thought of leading a Finance project in January seemed daunting to me at first. However, this proved to be an incredibly rewarding experience that allowed me to develop skills that I would have considered my weaker areas before starting on the Scheme.

  • Universities run on people…spend time getting to know colleagues and build connections.

  • Learn from others, embrace opportunities and seek out advice/feedback wherever you can.

  • Have confidence…you don’t always need a wealth of experience to add value, sometimes bringing a new perspectives can be just what is needed!