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Manchester Masters

The city's brightest graduates have now been chosen. Sarah Tierney talks to a candidate and a member of the judging panel about the selection boot camp

Published on June 1st 2009.

Manchester Masters

As someone who has spent their career studiously avoiding giving any kind of presentation, the idea of a 'boot camp' style job interview fills me with horror. The word conjures up images of Powerpoint and press-ups with a shouty lunatic like Alan Sugar barking out insults and demands for USPs.

The candidates for Manchester Masters, the city's new work placement programme for graduates, are less easily daunted – and so are much more the type of person that the scheme is designed to attract.

Set up at the beginning of this year, Manchester Masters puts the most talented graduates through a two day boot camp in order to find those who have what it takes to succeed in a marketing or creative career. These ten graduates then get a year's paid work experience across four Manchester companies, plus a rent-free city centre apartment for a year, and numerous extras like a free travel pass. The aim of the programme is to stop the exodus of talent to London by giving the best graduates a good reason to stay in Manchester.

The Manchester Masters boot camp took place earlier this month. Politics and Modern History student Charlotte Gush was one of those who got through. So was it as intimidating as it sounds?

“It was quite intense,” says Charlotte. “I think everyone expected it to be a bit more aggressive and dog-eat-dog, but it wasn't. It was challenging but everyone was really lovely. It was fun as well.”

Charlotte exudes the type of resilient, enthusiastic attitude that the judges were looking for. All the candidates (there were 50 invited to the boot camp) did psychometric tests to establish whether they were a good match for a marketing career. Then during the two day event, they were given numerous tasks designed to let them show off their strengths.

“The first thing we had to do was go out and find an object that represented Manchester,” explains Charlotte. “Then we had to do a 30 second presentation on why we chose it.”

“I went and got a bit of red brick off the ground and talked about how a lot of the city architecture is made of red brick, how it makes Manchester stand out, and how there are a lot of red brick buildings that have been renovated and turned into cool new clubs and restaurants.”

Other candidates brought back canal water in a bottle, Manchester International Festival booklets, and of course, the trusty Mancunian umbrella.

Charlotte says she felt “amazed” when she got chosen for the programme. She'll be starting it in September with a placement at BJL Advertising, before going on to work at JW Lees, Mediacom North, and North Manchester Regeneration.

The project director for Manchester Masters, Sandy Lindsay, says they based the placement programme on the fast-track schemes you find in big businesses.

“If you were a graduate at Price Waterhouse Coopers for example, you'd work in various parts of the business to get a feel for where you want to spend your career,” Sandy explains. “Manchester Masters does that but it does it in four different businesses. So you could work at a very small agency, at a very large business in the marketing department, and at two other places. It means that you shortcut about ten years' worth of career into just one year.”

For the graduates, it's a good way to gain experience while they figure out exactly what type of company and role suits them. And the scheme is just as popular with businesses – they get first access to the city's best graduates and a big subsidy on the cost of their salary. It's also an investment in Manchester's economy as a whole – by offering their support, they're taking action to boost the city's strength as a centre for business.

Says Sandy: “We were only looking for 40 work placements but we ended up with about 80 companies that we could have selected from.”

Some of the companies the graduates will be working at include Manchester United Soccer School, Dabs.com, and creative agencies Love and The Eword. Other businesses are showing their support in different ways.

“Will Kintish, the networking guru, is doing a training session for the students,” says Sandy. “They've got free membership to the Chartered Institute of Marketing and the Manchester Publicity Association, so he'll teach them how to make the most of networking events. Businesses in Manchester are really helping us make this a real success.”

Manchester Masters will be running again next year, with the application process for students starting in September when the new term begins.

“We'll be talking to businesses who want to be involved from early 2010,” says Sandy. In the meantime, have a look at their website – www.manchestermasters.com – if you want to know more.

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