Ambitious Futures: a graduate scheme for university leadership

Ambitious Futures LogoInterested in a graduate scheme but want something a little different? Interested in the Higher Education/public sector? The Ambitious Futures Graduate Scheme could be for you!

This unique programme will give you the opportunity to gain real experience in the business of how universities operate in a diverse and fast-paced sector. The scheme is 15 months long, involving three different placements across two universities. In each placement, you are typically involved in project-based work which could be in any area across the university. In addition to the experience and exposure you receive as a result of being on the programme, you will have additional support from a mentor and through peer Action Learning Sets. You will also work through a programme of study called the ILM to support your own learning and personal development. Alumni from the scheme have gone onto fantastic roles in project management, planning or in central government.

Applications are open from 1st December 2015 to the 25th January 2016. Following the application form, the next stage is to be invited to take part in a formal strength-focussed telephone interview which asks for further details relating to your experience and competences. The final stage in the process is a full-day Assessment Centre which looks for further demonstration of your key strengths in relation to the core-competences to assess your suitability for the scheme.

Jessica Nightingale, a current Graduate Trainee based at the University of Manchester and Lancaster University has been working on projects relating to Athena SWAN, Performance & Development Reviews for research staff and producing statistics and supporting research for the Senior Management Team in the Institute of Population Health.

My first placement in the Institute of Population Health has been eye-opening. My previous experience working with the university in part-time roles and on an MGIP, has been in student-facing and student-led environments so working with academic and research staff was wholly and completely new! I’ve learned so much about different operational processes and how the wider context really affects the limitations and opportunities within my place of work. In two weeks’ time, I will be starting working at Lancaster University in the Student Recruitment and Employment Team which is going to present challenges of a new university environment which is radically different to Manchester as well as new tasks and projects to engage with. For me the great thing about the scheme is that I have got to try other areas of work across two different universities to learn about where my interest and passion lies for my future career within the Higher Education Sector either in the UK or abroad, access and learning from senior members of Professional Support Services (PSS) staff as well as a structured programme of development opportunities!

Gary Fairclough, graduate trainee at the University of Manchester and Lancaster University has been working in the Research and Business Engagement Team on two main projects relating to engagement and satisfaction with the Postgraduate Research (PGR) Community and in improvements to how academic staff across the university can engage with the business sector. Prior to starting the scheme, Gary had worked within the private sector in roles relating to energy consultancy so the Ambitious Futures graduate scheme has been a real opportunity for him to learn about and make a start in a new sector.

My first placement has been in Research & Business Engagement Support Services working on two projects with the Graduate Education and Business Engagement teams. These projects have been at the polar opposites of the work done by the directorate with my tasks ranging from engaging with postgraduate research students to surveying senior academics for their views on engagement strategy. This has tested my existing knowledge to the maximum and exposed me to a range of new experiences. It has given me the opportunity to get an understanding of the University and the wider sector, the challenges faced by the institutions and the many stakeholders involved. My forthcoming role with Lancaster University represents a whole new challenge within the Training Team, something that I have very limited experience of and will be jumping in at the deep end with! The scheme represented the perfect foundation for me to diversify my skills and experience from the private sector with a view to building a career with Higher Education.

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