Hear from our trainees

Read the profiles of some of our Graduate Trainees and find out about why they joined the scheme and their experiences so far.

Jodie Bird

BA English, MA English, University of Birmingham

After I graduated from my Masters Degree, I still didn’t have an answer to the common question ‘what are you going to do after you graduate?’.

However, the vast array of placements on the Graduate Management Training Scheme has allowed me to develop my professional skills and self-confidence, whilst also supporting me in establishing what job at the University my skills would be best suited to.

Jodie Bird portrait

Why I applied

Studying here for four years helped me to forge a strong connection with the University of Birmingham. This passion drove me towards seeking a future engaging with the University in a more professional rather than academic perspective. In particular, the breath of placements on the scheme attracted me, as I knew I wanted to work within the University’s professional services and the fast-paced Higher Education sector more widely, but was unsure on which area and the type of work I was interested in.

Highlights

I have really enjoyed the breadth of experiences I have gathered so far on the scheme, and I’m only one year in! Each of my placements have been very varied, whether that be in the type of work, the structure of the project, or simply in the skills necessary to get the job done. I have refined existing skills, whilst also creating new ones.

The structure and friendliness of the scheme has allowed me to build up a network of professional contacts across the University, which is very enjoyable to both maintain and build upon. The cohort of other Graduate Management Trainees, both past and present, is a valuable network of professionals who are a great source of support, and are people I have formed lifelong friendships with.

Development

The development opportunities we are offered have not only aided my professional development, but also influenced my personal development and confidence levels. We have the opportunity to get involved with a broad range of institutional activities; some of which have involved organising a departmental all-staff away day, helping out with graduation ceremonies and celebrations, and attending various professional conferences based on and off campus. I have faced a number of challenges, but the support systems and development training provided has turned these challenges into learning opportunities which I am proud I overcame.

 

Placements so far:

Research Support Services: I aided the communication of the University’s key research projects, aims and outputs by working cross-institutionally to create an engagement toolkit for academics.
Admissions: I researched, updated, and developed new international A-Level grade equivalences for international students’ entry requirements.
Academic Registrar’s Office: I have helped with the facilitation and integration of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), whilst also working simultaneously on Student Experience initiatives such as Buddying and Mentoring Schemes for Students.
College of Arts and Law: I’ll be working on improving employability and strengthening the College’s environment for impactful research by increasing and refining the range of cultural internships offered to students.

Paul Bowman

BA Geography, University of Cambridge

I love to try new things.  I like to be challenged.  And I want to develop my skills as a future manager.  These three things brought me to apply to the University’s Graduate Management Trainee scheme, and it is delivering on all three.

Paul_Bowman portraitHighlights

Whilst working in the College of Social Sciences (CoSS), I produced an online communications training course for more than 50 student-facing staff.  Students and staff alike had a genuinely significant role in shaping the course, and I felt it was a brilliant collaborative effort.

Another highlight was when a senior academic said he “couldn’t have written it better myself” after my work on his School’s submission as part of the nationwide pilot of the new, subject-level version of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).  It was fantastic to be involved in a major new policy development for the University and in Higher Education more broadly.

Development

The scheme offers a range of formal and informal development opportunities.  I’ve benefitted from a programme of courses on topics ranging from presentation skills and time management to resilience and assertiveness.  I’ve also had mentoring from a senior leader and support from a supervisor in each placement.  But more than anything, it’s the variety of work I do and range of people I interact with that have continuously strengthened and refined my skills.

Best Advice

One of the scheme’s privileges is the breadth of understanding you gain across the University’s many and varied activities.  So when you’re asked if you’d like to try something new, make ‘yes’ your default answer.  I’ve never regretted it.

Tips for applicants

Find out about the latest developments and debates in the Higher Education sector – be it Brexit, Teaching and Research Excellence Frameworks, free speech debates or the fees review.  Times Higher Education, The Guardian and WonkHE are all good sources.  Your interviewers won’t expect you to be experts, but it’s important to have a basic grounding.

Placements so far:

College of Social Sciences, Student Services.  I produced a strategy for how the College should use digital communications to keep its students informed about their course and the many extra-curricular opportunities available.  I also designed a staff training course to support this.
Academic Registrar’s Office.  I worked on University submissions for the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), worked with an external consultant on a monitoring and evaluation plan for the Academic Services division, and led a project to improve the operation and management of University identity cards.
Business Engagement.  I worked with leading academics in our Medical School to market their research with the aim of increasing our collaboration and funding from pharmaceutical partners for new research projects.
Admissions.  I’ll be involved in designing the University’s admissions processes for degree apprenticeships.  I’ll also lead a significant aspect of the University’s operation to confirm students’ places and guide applicants through Clearing after A-level results day.

Daniel Stone

BA Economics and Management, University of Oxford

The University of Birmingham is an influential and ambitious university. I consider it to be an ideal environment for graduates who want to understand how to be effective in large and complex organisations.

Daniel_Stone portrait

Why I applied for the Scheme

I grew up in Birmingham and despite having a few years away – in Oxford and London – I have retained a close connection to the city. My previous roles were all related to education and the scheme offered me the opportunity to deepen my knowledge of this sector within an organisation that has a tremendous effect on the region through its research, teaching and economic impact.

Importantly, the scheme would also help me to develop the skills and experiences required to take on a managerial role in a large organisation. I had already taken on leadership positions within smaller enterprises and knew that I would be exposed to a much greater range of managerial issues and perspectives.

Challenges

I’m a great believer that challenge goes hand in hand with development. As a quietly spoken and reflective person, I have sometimes found it challenging to get my points across in meetings, especially when there are louder personalities in the room. In response, I’ve worked with my mentor and line manager to plan effective strategies for enhancing my presence in meetings.

There are also challenges associated with moving between teams so frequently. It can be difficult to adapt to new work expectations and team cultures, but I’ve found staff across the university to be welcoming and patient. The best placements also sought to identify and use my strengths within the context of that team or project.

Support

The scheme offers a range of support mechanisms including formal training on a range of topics including financial management and interview skills. I have a buddy from an earlier cohort of management trainees and also have access to a mentor who is a senior leader in the university. I have thoroughly enjoyed my mentoring conversations. My mentor has helped me to reflect on my placements and personal development and has shared her insights on a breadth of managerial themes. I have also received support, feedback and guidance from each placement.

Placements so far:

College of Social Sciences.  I worked with academics and professional services staff in the Institute of Local Government Studies (INLOGOV) to design and deliver degree apprenticeships. My work focused on curriculum development, marketing and quality assurance.
International Recruitment.  I developed new marketing materials and commercial approaches for working with agents and prospective international students. I also participated in recruitment events in the UK and overseas in Oman.
Strategic Planning.  I led on a number of data driven projects designed to improve internal efficiencies and to present research information more easily through the university’s data visualisation software, Tableau.
Estates.  I will be working on The Exchange building - the historic Grade II listed former bank being restored by the University, which will become a hub for the University in the centre of Birmingham. 

Frankie Ring

BA German and Italian, University of Bristol

I have found a job that gives me the chance to find the right role and career for me whilst being surrounded by people who are passionate about what they do.

Frankie RingWhy I applied

I spent the first two years after I graduated on a retail buying graduate scheme in London. Although I learnt a lot and had many brilliant experiences, I realised a career in retail wasn’t for me and that I wanted to do something that was a better fit for my personal values. The scheme at Birmingham really attracted me because I had decided I wanted to move to the Higher Education sector but I didn’t know where to start with the range of roles available. The flexibility offered by the scheme is fantastic, it can be hard to find employers where it is accepted and encouraged to try different roles and departments to find the right fit for you.  

One of the things I love most about this job is that you meet so many people who are really passionate about what they do, whether that’s a researcher on the brink of a breakthrough or staff volunteering to make sure students have the best graduation experience possible. It means a lot to me and inspires me to work around people who love what they do.

Highlights

One of the highlights for me has been achieving things that I was initially very daunted by. For example before I started at the University I’d had experience in very operational roles, with a responsibility for making strategy happen, but not involvement in the creation of a strategy. My very first role at the University was contributing towards the University’s European Strategy and although it was an area of real interest for me, the strategy aspect I found really daunting. But the placements are structured specifically for you to learn and develop and so I went from not really understanding how a strategy comes together to being a key part of its creation.

Advice

When we first started the scheme one of the key pieces of advice that was given to us was how important our professional networks were going to be to us. The fantastic thing about the scheme and the placements is that you naturally grow your networks through the various activities on the scheme, by saying yes to things, getting involved and being friendly. I’m amazed by how many people I know and recognise already when I’m walking around campus. So my advice would be to make the most of having access to those networks and stay in touch with the various people you get to know, even if it’s just a coffee every so often at one of the many cafes on campus!

 

Placements so far:

International Relations: I helped in the development of the University’s European Strategy by collating and analysing data from around the University, mapping existing European partnerships and scoping potential for developing others.
Research Support Services: I worked with many teams from across the University to review the development support and training available to academic staff across the University. This resulted in a report with recommendations for the improved coordination of these services.
Educational Enterprise: My role in the Educational Enterprise team focused on the University’s fully online degree programmes and the range of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) we offer. A mixture of operational support, business analysis and product development; helping to support existing courses and develop new ones.
 Executive Support: This will be an opportunity to get involved in a broad range of activity at the heart of the University which may include running the Vice-Chancellor’s Challenge, being involved in Strategic Change projects and supporting requirements for registration with the Office for Students.

Sandev Panaser

BSc Psychology, University of Warwick; MSc Occupational Psychology, Coventry University

Working in an institution that makes a differences people’s lives whether that be through research, teaching or other activities and working with people who share similar values and beliefs were just some of the main features that attracted me to the Graduate Management Training Scheme.

Sandev portraitHighlights

Even though there are many highlights I could speak about, the most exciting one I had the privilege of experiencing was accompanying an academic to China to interview students for our 2+2 degrees in Engineering, Metallurgy and Materials and Computer Science across 6 Universities.

This formed part of my placement in the College of Engineering and Physical Science and despite working on the Marketing and Communications side of Professional Services here I was exposed to a great deal of admissions experience. It goes to show that you never know what is waiting around the corner for you on the scheme.

Development

The scheme offers a robust development package from formal training courses to informal chats and support from your assigned mentor. I however would say it is important to seek out your own development opportunities; you are in a privileged position where you can ask to take part in almost anything so take advantage, learn something about everything and most importantly have fun. The aim is to become one of the future leaders in Higher Education so it is important to get involved!

Advice for applicants

If you are successful at the first stage of application and invited to an interview then my best advice would be to genuinely express why you want a career in Higher Education and why Birmingham. All trainees so far have been passionate about making a difference and what better place to do it than at a civic university.

Placements so far:

College of Arts and LawPost Graduate Researcher Welfare – I was responsible for producing a report with recommendations on how we can improve the wellbeing provisions for our PhD students. After interviews with various stakeholders across the University and using my knowledge of mental health issues I created a set of recommendations. This was  reviewed by Graduate School Management Board and a committee was set up to carry my recommendations out across the whole University.
College of Engineering and Physical SciencesMarketing and Communications – I researched and produced a report on how we can increase internal and external stakeholder engagement in events that we hold in the College. In addition to this I had to opportunity to get involved with the Birmingham and London Policy Commission, organising a high profile event and travel to China to assist with admissions interviews.
Estates OfficeProjects Team – I created a user guide for other University departments outlining the processes and stages involved when engaging in a large building projects. In addition to this I organised a contractors workshop to discuss matters relating to University/contractor relationships, assisting in organising a Public Consultation Event for our newly acquired building in the City Centre and getting involved in the staff wellbeing working group in Estates.
Institute for Global InnovationCore Team – Joining a team of just 2, I  will be getting involved in a variety of activities to help grow the Institute, increase its presence, and successfully win research funding .