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Manchester's brain drain

Why are all our best graduates moving to London to build their careers? And what are we going to do about it? Thomas Broadbent investigates.

Published on January 29th 2009.


Manchester's brain drain

Manchester's universities are well known for attracting some of the most talented minds in the country. The University of Manchester recently became one of the top five research universities in the UK, and Manchester Metropolitan University, Salford University, and Bolton University have long been a top choice for high-achieving, creatively-minded students.

Yet according to the findings of the Innovation Manchester initiative led by NESTA (National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts), Manchester's employment market isn't proving so popular. Once the students have finished their courses, too many of them flee – taking their knowledge, skills and ideas with them. Cities such as London and New York frequently get the cream of Manchester's crop, leaving us with the next generation of freshers to sharpen up, but few of the finished product.

This is why some of the city's top businesses are joining together with city council bodies, education charities and Manchester's universities to stop the exodus of graduates. They've just launched a scheme called Manchester Masters: a graduate employment programme that aims to attract, nurture, and keep creative talent in Manchester.

It works like this. Every year new graduates from universities across the Manchester city region will compete in a rigorous recruitment process for a place on an intensive one-year development programme, of the type of offered by the world's leading companies. Ten selected graduates will be given the opportunity to work in four Manchester businesses over the course of a year, with a three-month, paid placement in each.

The benefits for the graduates are obvious. Working in contrasting environments in varied roles, they'll pick up sought-after skills and experience – and gain a sense of where they want to take their career in the future. It's likely that many of them will be offered a permanent job at one of the placement companies.

Businesses that take part have just as much to gain. Participation in the scheme gives them first dibs on the best talent coming out of Manchester's universities, plus a high profile amongst the business community and graduate job-seekers.

It is also a very cost-effective way of test-driving a potential new employee. Businesses are only required to pay the graduate £1,500 for each quarter (Manchester Masters funds the rest and the student receives a bursary of £10,000 pa).

The participants will be carefully selected to ensure that only the very best get through – the aim is to supply businesses with graduates who can make a real difference to their bottom line.

Manchester Masters has already attracted the interest of a list of high-profile employers including the BBC, Yahoo, News International, Bruntwood and Warburtons. However, the organisers are keen to hear from other Manchester companies who are interested in taking part.

The scheme isn't just about offering good employment opportunities to keep the best talent in the city: it's also about giving Manchester graduates a decent quality of life while they're getting their career started. That's why, on top of their salary, the participants will get a rent-free city centre apartment for a year, and free travel on public transport, courtesy of a System One Travelcard. Companies who help with this element of the programme will benefit from good relationships with the programme's stakeholders, an increased profile, and access to the talent pool of applicants for the programme.

If you think your business or employer could be interested in taking part in Manchester Masters: either by offering work placements, or by supplying services that will enhance the participants' quality of life while they complete the programme, get in touch with Manchester Masters on www.manchestermasters.com

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12 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousJanuary 29th 2009.

i think the scheme sounds like a great idea - i only have an issue with the use of the funding & the salary/bursary element... it's a shame the funding for living costs for the graduates involved isn't being used to fund another placement position or 2. after all, the placements will be paid employment & city centre living is very affordable - why not make the placement experience as near to real working life as possible & make the graduates involved pay rent/monthly bills etc.? i was recently made redundant from a well paid career i had been working at since graduating 3 years ago. i have been earning minimum wage since & have still managed to afford to live just off deansgate in a lovely new apartment, go out with friends & save money. if graduates are to remain in the real world keep this scheme as realistic as possible! living off £16k p.a. is very managable - i did it in central london for a year so it's very possible in manchester!

AnonymousJanuary 29th 2009.

After graduating in June 2006 I have struggled to find permanent employment. I worked for an angency and had temporary positions for 18 months at Lloyds TSB and Barclays Bank in Manchester. I then secured an internship in New York where I have lived and worked and studied full time for 13 months. I have worked at the FCO Office in Manhatten. I will be back in Manchester next week and I will be looking for work, the experience I have gained has been very fullfilling but is anybody out there going to read my new CV I feel I am now not in any better position than when i went as the Job situation has worsened. I would love to stay in New York and would be welcomed to except they will not give me a Green Card, UK nationals are not on the list of required people that the US wants. HELP!!!

KTFairyJanuary 29th 2009.

Well said everyone here! I have managed people in Manchester for a number of years in the finance industry and can easily say that having a degree makes no difference to how far you can go. I left university without a degree and have managed people with masters degrees who I would say had no chance of getting my job as they had the wrong attitude. I would prefer to employ someone with work experience, so the best thing graduates can do is get some work experience during their degree (be it during the holidays if their course is too busy - I know about busy degrees I did Architecture).But in all this sounds like a good scheme - shame it can't be made available for more people. I would look favourably on someone who had this on their CV.

jean de baptisteJanuary 29th 2009.

This problem Manchester has in common with the rest of the country. It tends to be science and technology grads that disappear as there are no firms to employ them. Encouraging the firms back in to the area will solve the problem. This is only a very temporary measure and is unlikely to have long term success.

CastlefieldJanuary 29th 2009.

I agree AD. What makes me laugh is the graduates who get a degree, can't get the job they expected to and then decide to go back to university to do a masters or such.There are always jobs available but many graduates think they are above them. Yet how many people have started in a job they thought would be temporary and it turned into a career - more than you'd think.JUST GET A JOB AND MAKE THE MOST OF IT!

DavidbJanuary 29th 2009.

Great scheme, I wish it well but isn't this proof positive that our wonderful governments policy, forcing our children into University education just for the sake of it, only defers the underlying issue; there are NO REAL JOBS or CAREERS out there! what's more damaging, it raises our children's expectations leaving them feeling frustrated and worthless.

manc masters graduateJanuary 29th 2009.

I came all the way from America to do my master's in Manchester. Like ex-man student says, I am finding it very hard to find a job here in Manchester. At the moment I'm working three jobs to keep money coming in, because I can't find a full-time position. So with two degrees, work experience and drive - I'm still working at a pub :( The programme sounds good, but top graduates are already in Manchester and not finding work.

ADJanuary 29th 2009.

There are only so many graduate jobs, In the last 20 years the number of students at universities has increased dramaticly therefore more graduates for each job that is as true in london as it is throughout the country. One thing that the article does not make clear is whether the rate of brain drain is any greater than it has ever been in the past nor does it make clear how many non manchester graduates come to the city to work. It also doesnt actualy tell us whether we are losing graduates with talent or just the also rans, for all we know from this the truely gifted graduates might be staying...

CastlefieldJanuary 29th 2009.

Having employed people, Graduates and not over a number of years, I think the problem is Graduate expectation.When Graduates were the cream of talent then they had more of a reason to be thought of as such. Now most people can obtain a degree. This is not just my opinion but that of all the recent graduates that work for us.The problem is I don't need someone to explain to me the theory of Business Administration, Management or Marketing but to actually do it.I don't care what letters you have after your name, I want results.I would much rather employ a young person of graduate age who has a few years work experience and is prepared for the real world.I feel a lot of Graduates expect to be considered a better recruit to someone who is the same age, left college at 18 and has been gaining work experience since.Unless your degree is relevant (and even then it's sometimes so far off the mark it's untrue) then it gives you no advantage and nor should it.University is now largely a 'life' experience rather than any kind of real preperation for work and should be seen as so.This obviously excludes careers where University education is vital, but what proportion of students is that?A lot of graduates need a reality check.

leighJanuary 29th 2009.

Classic ignorance really, from my experience a lot of degree students, masters and PHD etc make me laugh, they spend all their time educating themselves and no time learning about possible positions they might like in the real world and how to gain them. The higher they go up the learning ladder the less they see on the ground. There is no educational degree for common sense unfortunately as common sense remains immeasurable.These people can split atoms and challenge the theory of relativity but then go on to struggle when tying their shoe laces...it’s laughable

AliceJanuary 29th 2009.

Maybe one of the reasons graduates struggle to find jobs is that they are all automatically tarred with the same brush (as above comments). I agree with you to an extent, but there are plenty of good quality graduates, who have worked and DO have experience alongside their degree. I am a worker, a self starter, I always have been and because of some unfortunate circumstances I need a job - I want it long term and I am happy to work for minimum wage. Although since I graduated this year (with some experience, and a first class degree) I have not been able to get ANY job. In this economical environment people will not employ me BECAUSE I have a degree. They assume I will think the job is beneath me and leave! I cant get jobs related to my degree because I don't have enough relevant experience, employers have the cream of the crop to choose from right now, including graduates with a few years relevant experience under their belt... I am unemployed and desperate.

ex-man studentJanuary 29th 2009.

That sounds like a great idea! I'm a manchester graduate, with a first class degree, and i've found it very difficult to get into roles in manchester. But I am still here, as are most of my ex-uni freinds. I'm currently in a badly paid little job to pay the bills, and beginning to think that i may just HAVE to move to London to get into any kind of career that i might want to be in - i.e. not sales, and not finance.I don't want to move from Manchester, i'm northern born and bred and hate London, but it appears that that's where the jobs are...

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