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A company’s commitment to diversity, equality, and inclusion (DE&I) is an essential feature of business success. Not only is a diverse workplace proven to improve a company’s profits and innovation metrics, but a focus on DE&I improves the lives of employees, the general public, and is a way to adjust for structural inequalities.

The profitability is proven—out of 3,000 publicly traded companies analysed in one study, those that fulfilled all nine positive diversity requirements proved to be more innovative for three reasons:

  1. A wider group of people pulls a broader set of ideas, interests, and experiences.
  2. More diverse companies attract more and additional diverse talent.
  3. With a ‘halo’ effect, diverse companies are more attractive to women and underrepresented groups, plus individuals who are not in those groups but want to work in more enlightened organisations.

With a growing focus on these initiatives within the business, ‘Diversity,’ ‘Equality,’ and ‘Inclusion’ have become ‘buzzwords’ of today—here  is a quick breakdown of what each word in the phrase means:

A user guide, for you

Graphic of a diverse group of people, entrepreneurs, or office workers isolated on white background showing old and young men and women standing together.

With financial, business, social, and human arguments supporting DE&I efforts, and a growing expectation from employees that DE&I will be a priority, companies that do not pursue this area may fall behind and lose social credibility. But, adjusting for social inequalities within the workplace is indeed a large task.

Here are seven of the key strategies that a company or organisation can implement to commit to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

  1. Assess the company’s starting point
  2. Hire and establish a diversity, equality, and inclusivity manager and team
  3. Adjust hiring and candidate search practices
  4. Manage bias within the organisation
  5. Establish equality within pay
  6. Seek ongoing feedback from employees
  7. Tracking progress over long periods of time

To download your user guide with further details on the seven key strategies, please click the button below.

Please click here to download your user guide

Higher Level Skills Match, part-funded by the European Social Fund, is a project designed to support local small and medium businesses to grow. Interested in learning more?

Learn more about Higher Level Skills Match (HLSM)

Through this piece, Gin talks about his own personal experiences, lists valuable tips to help you deliver virtually and discusses what we have learnt from this new way of working.

During the past year, we have all had to learn a variety of new skills. Digital skills have played a crucial role ensuring businesses and the economy have been able to carry on working effectively, especially in the professional services sector.

With the potential lifting of COVID-19 related measures due this summer, how do we take the skills we have learnt recently and combine them with those ‘real world’ skills we spent many years honing?

I have personally spent many hours over the past year presenting to different businesses for a variety of reasons. The common thread for these presentations is that they have all been online via video conferencing software such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom. I am conscious that my approach to these meetings has drastically changed from the times where I would be in the same room as stakeholders and each meeting would begin with a handshake.

With a new hybrid way of working likely to be our future, there is a strong chance that many of us will continue to rely upon things that have worked for us over the months. Here are the top 5 things I’ve learnt from l presenting online over the course of the last 15 months;

1). It’s okay to be yourself

The last 12 months have resulted in amore relaxed environment in many companies. Businesses that have previously snubbed working from home have now embraced it and there has been greater prioritization of our work-life balance. Can you imagine scenarios where children or pets appearing in a big meeting would have been normal in 2018 for instance? I know I can’t!

2). Be more interactive

Perhaps the biggest change to my presentation approach has been the need to be more interactive. During previous pitches and presentations, it was okay to speak for 10+ minutes in a monologue form. Doing so on a video call runs the serious risk of distraction for your audience: there are many temptations, from checking your email to typing up notes, which can detract from the message you are trying to deliver.

3). Sharing has become the norm

Screen sharing and being able to quickly flick between different documents has become a useful way of presenting more information to your audience. Where an in-person meeting can sometimes suffer from sharing and showing too much information, a video meeting with engaging content can be an effective way of regularly stimulating your audience. Key word here being relevant!

4). Help is available

With any kind of change in routine, whether that be the adoption of new technology or change of communication medium, it takes time and practice. You could talk to a friend or colleague who is having similar challenges and ask for their advice.

There are online training and workshop sessions out there, including Higher Level Skills Match’s upcoming workshop Commercial and Personal Awareness.

5). Remember, there is light at the end of the tunnel!

For those of you who yearn for face-to-face presenting we are slowly moving back to that, however a hybrid approach to communication between online and face-to-face communication is likely to continue. This means having to adjust between the new mediums regularly. You are not alone if you feel anxious or nervous returning to presenting in-person. As much as your family pet could be there with you for a practice run, unfortunately their feedback may not be as useful. There is no rush and it is important to focus on getting back into delivering what is comfortable for you, whether that be online, hybrid or small in-person groups.

Gin Bhandal is a Graduate Talent Consultant for the Higher Level Skills Match Project, part-funded by the European Social Fund, at Birmingham City University with over 15 years’ experience in the Education and Recruitment industries. Gin uses his expertise to assess the workplace needs of businesses, provide access to training opportunities and support the recruitment of highly skilled students and graduates. When he’s not helping your business, Gin is a volunteer coach at an under 15 football team.

Find out how you can boost your confidence in online presentation through our inspiring and educational workshops.

Register for the Commercial and Personal Awareness Workshop

For over 20 years, Campaign for Learning have lead the awareness week ‘Learning at Work’, which is aimed at all businesses across the UK.

The awareness week shines a spotlight on the benefits of learning and development at work.

Through this blog, we will aim to inform how your business can be involved in this initiative, continuing beyond this week and the benefits of ‘Learning at Work’ is for both your business and your employees.

What is learning at work week?

Businesses from up and down the UK who are involved with ‘Learning at Work’ week, in which businesses of all shapes and sizes will host a wide range of events and workshops for their employees.

Campaign for Learning highlight that all involved have the freedom to plan their own events and workshops, so that you can easily fit alongside your own business goals and staff development needs.

But you also have the added bonus of being to access additional webinars and free training sessions through other companies. Allowing for a wider catalogue of learning resources and the flexibility to plan.

The benefits of ‘Learning at work’

‘Campaign for Learning’ list the vast benefits from taking part in the awareness week, from changing attitudes to learning and work, to opportunities to discover and recognise internal talent, plus much more.

Photo of business people in an office brainstorming during a meeting

The online jobs board – Indeed also highlight the long term benefits of how ongoing learning and development can improve your career. The list includes improved work performance, morale and skills development. Indeed also list how this can benefit you as an employer with learning and development, with improving the workplace through high-performance employees, a structured training environment and increased employee job satisfaction.

How you can get involved

To get involved with Learning at Work Week, you can visit their website directly and also browse all upcoming events and workshops. A fantastic opportunity to participate in both leading with learning at work and celebrating the initiative.

Photo of two colleagues fist bumping at their desks

But remember, learning at work can be an initiative to embed all year round. Easily accessed right on your doorstop through funded projects and government initiatives.

You can get support in achieving your Learning at Work ambitions through the STEM-Up programme, part-funded by the European Social Fund. It’s completely free to join and all workshops are fully funded. Focused on helping professionals and businesses in the Greater Birmingham area.

Ranging from courses spanning across STEM, STEAM and Soft Skills, all designed to upskill and support with your employees career development. You will also be partnered with a dedicated Skills Advisor from one of the partners who will work with you to assess your team’s development needs.

Courses and workshops are ran throughout the year, allowing you the flexibility to fit workshops in around businesses and individual commitments. The programme is in partnership with Birmingham City University, Aston University and Solihull College and University Centre. Participants are able to access workshops and courses across all three partners.

As discussed in our past blog The Beginners Guide to Upskilling’, there are also a variety of online workshops all free of cost. The Skills Toolkit is a government-led online offer and is open to all businesses and professionals in the UK. All courses are available online and provided by The Open University, Amazon and FutureLearn.


The benefits of initiatives such as ‘Learning at Work’ week help both employer and employee to maximise their development needs and business needs. With a range of offers currently available both locally and nationally, free, the range of upskilling workshops are even more accessible without putting pressures financially on businesses.

With those adapting to moving their services as online delivery, as a result has helped to increase the flexibility and access to upskilling and development. Providing ‘on-demand’ sessions also allows for those to learn in their own time and pace.

Interested in how STEM-Up can support with upskilling your business? Enquire today to speak with one of our dedicated team today.

Learn more about STEM-Up

Reflecting on International Women’s Day, we spoke to two female entrepreneurs currently working with Higher Level Skills Match (HLSM) (part-funded by the European Social Fund) over the last two months. Through this blog post, we look into the challenges faced when growing a business and the support available through HLSM to help provide support.

Two tales of Business growth 

Vanessa Kelly runs 2 Much Passion CIC, a non-profit organisation that teaches, trains and provides creative cooking classes that boost individual and family well-being by supporting them out of poverty. 

 We’re a non-profit organisation built on the sole purpose that food can bring people together” says Vanessa.  

 Our project’s Let’s Get Culture Cooking and Young Foodeez provides an online platform for growth and develop of cooking courses and events. We work from cooks to chefs and allow them to reach their full potential. 

We also spoke with Muneerah Dubidat, who runs Transform Coaching & Events. Muneerah’s enterprise supports hundreds of women online by offering coaching, mentoring, group workshop facilitation and events. The aim? To take women from a place of low confidence and low self-esteem to confident decision-makers and action takers. 

Reflecting on 12 months of development 

Reflecting on the last 12 months, Muneerah says “Transform Coaching & Events has supported hundreds of women online, building a beautiful community of empowered women seeking positive change in their lives. By focusing on ‘Self-Love’ and ‘Self-confidence’ the women gain the self-belief needed to take action, so they can achieve the life they want, whilst confidently owning their power and uniqueness. 

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #ChooseToChallenge and that is exactly what we do as an organisation. We challenge women’s thinking and help them to remove their perceived limitations so that they can create the change that they want to see.” 

With business growth comes challenges 

Fast business growth hasn’t come without its challenges. Finding the time and knowledge to develop her brand online, and transition her mindset from an employee to a business owner were just two of the many challenges Muneerah faced. That was as well as the ongoing financial pressures. 

Firstly, starting my business with very little capital during a pandemic presented challenges around balancing the needs of my family and the financial pressures to generate income to build a successful business. 

 I would have loved to employ a Digital Marketing expert to help me stand out and reach my niche, but that wasn’t an option for me at the time. But what it did give me was the opportunity to access a range of free training on-line, which opened more doors and opportunities to learn” stated Muneerah. 

As well as access to knowledge and resource, Muneerah found she needed a mental shift in her approach to work.  

Another business challenge was the transition in my mindset from an employee to a business owner. From the basics of registering my business and meeting Statutory Obligations, to decision making on a level that I had not yet experienced in my previous day to day roles. 

 Also, maintaining personal motivation and not being so hard on myself remain a daily challenge, especially being a high achiever. But I continue to draw upon my ever-growing network to help me make my mission a reality. 

Taking on multiple business roles 

With this in mind, Vanessa also spoke about the challenges as a female entrepreneur and balancing overseeing all aspects of running a business through the different stages. Vanessa reflected on the importance of learning quickly the difference in work ethic and passion within the industry and the importance of the different skills individuals can bring.  

My biggest challenge as a female entrepreneur is having to wear many different hats throughout all the different stages of my business” Vanessa stressed. 

However, the importance of embracing new opportunities as business owners isn’t to be forgotten.  

 There is never one hat fits all its really important to be adaptable and allow yourself to be open to new opportunities. At times you’re the accountant, the social media manager, the admin, the driver, cleaner, it important to be prepared to work in all the different parts of the business. Until the day you are ready to expand and take staff on.  

Similarly to Muneerah’s transition from an employee to a business owner, being familiar with changing mindsets was something Vanessa also felt was important for her when it came to business growth and taking on your first employees.  

Once that happens you have to learn quickly not everyone has the same work ethic or passion as you do, everybody has different skill sets so appreciating individuals for being different and bringing something different to the table is a very valuable mindset.  

The work and support with Higher Level Skills Match  

When it came to supporting the development and management of individual and team skills within a business, both women sought out the support of Higher Level Skills Match – our Account Managed Skills solution. We asked both Vanessa and Muneerah on how approaching Higher Level Skills Match (HLSM) for this help, helped them and their business. 

“The support on offer and the quality of the placement students has been amazing, it has meant that our business will grow and will continue to grow.” Says Vanessa  

During a difficult year for business, students and graduates, and the community as a whole. The great collaboration between business and universities is incredibly valuable. HLSM enabled Vanessa and Muneerah to get access to students who were able to support their small businesses in specialist areas, as well as giving the students the opportunity to gain valuable skills to support with their career journey.

Muneerah also echoes the access to support from students HLSM provides a fantastic opportunity for businesses like me to make connections with new talent wishing to establish themselves and gain experiences to springboard their careers. I was in the exact same position a few years ago, and as a new business owner, I’m excited and honoured to be able to offer growth opportunities for the students of Birmingham City University. 

Being able to access the HLSM programme, allows me to develop my business, whilst giving the individual supporting me the much-needed business knowledge, exposure and experience to develop themselves and their career, which is a win-win for everyone.  

Aside, to the additional access to student talent both businesses found the upskilling support helped them improve their own business management skills and become more confident in their own skillset.

Muneerah mentioned “another advantage of being a part of the HSLM programme is having the opportunity to strengthen my current knowledge and skills, allowing me to take my business further and faster. I’m currently in the process of getting the valuable support needed and can’t wait to see the direct impact that being on the programme has on my business growth.”

Yes, You Can Do This 

Asking both Vanessa and Muneerah on the advice they would have for other business owners, especially on steps to growth.  

The best advice I would give to other businesses is to utilise the services that are made available, sometime you may think you don’t have the time to train a placement student or wonder if they are going to bring any value. The answer is YES, the new opportunity you open for them could be the new lease of life your business was looking for. says Vanessa  

Muneerah adds My biggest piece of advice for other business owners looking to grow would be to invest in getting the right support for you and your business as soon as possible. Yes, you have done an amazing job taking your business this far (and possibly on your own) and you should be proud of everything you have achieved. But imagine how much further you could go with the advice, support and expertise of organisations whose sole focus is ensuring the success of your business. 

Whether that’s business support through a service like Higher Level Skills Match, a collaboration with another complimentary business or having a conversation with a friend who runs a successful business. It will always be beneficial for you to get someone outside of the business give you their non-judgement feedback to help you grow your business in ways that you would not have thought were possible. 

And most importantly, enjoy the journey, look to the future with excitement and continue to influence and create change in your industry, using your uniqueness. As after all, that is your superpower and what you offer is exactly what the world needs right now!  

We look forward to seeing both businesses continue to grow and inspire more and more each day.  

Interested in learning more about how your business can grow and develop with Higher Level Skills Match? Find out more about our programme here.

Learn more about Higher Level Skills Match (HLSM)

Before March 2020, what was the likelihood of receiving a ‘attend our virtual fair’ invitation? Although virtual fairs may not have been completely new, it does beg the question how aware were we of the option pre-pandemic and did we think it would be the new norm.

But it does allow us to rethink about how we interact in the future, and whether online allows for a more genuine engagement from those keen to apply in the near future. And whether attending virtual fairs is more productive for businesses.

Luminate Prospects lists 5 key benefits for businesses to continue to attend online careers fairs, from saving costs and time, to tracking performance measures more efficiently.

But what is the benefit for small businesses?

For small businesses, it may not have always been an easy option to take time to travel and attend careers fairs. The time out to attend could be all day, something not necessarily easy for small businesses.

Allowing for fairs to remain virtual could be ideal for recruiting local student and graduate talent more frequently than they may have before. It also allows the option to widen the radius and attend nationally.

vFAIRS blog discusses further benefits as to ‘why virtual job fairs are here to stay’. Most notably the rise of remote working and the most likely scenario of employees not returning to the office full time. Opening the search for a wider radius than just local ‘on your doorstep’, as more are able to work remotely.

Birmingham City University has been working with businesses to hold sessions such as ‘Meet the Employer’ and small bespoke fairs. Something which if kept, could be just as valuable for small businesses, who will still be balancing time post-pandemic.

More virtual, more reach

Breaking down barriers and allowing for fairs to more easily accessible than physical in person events. Allowing for more small and medium businesses to attend, as well as students and graduates who may have found it too difficult to travel in on specific days.

Adapting to virtual delivery has been key for businesses and universities, but it is also shown the benefits to both students and graduates, and businesses. Both in saving cost and time, but also opening up more options that may have once been limited.

However there can be some challenges with remaining virtual, especially for new starters. Our previous blog discusses how to support graduates in the workplace.

Thinking of attending a virtual careers fair? It is always useful to check with the provider for the fair on Q&A’s or top tips to help prepare for joining.

If you’re considering upskilling your workforce, why not check out our Higher Level Skills Match programme and gain additional skills and knowledge through new recruits and retrained employees.

Learn more about Higher Level Skills Match (HLSM)

As we continue to navigate through the continuing pandemic, the negative effects are becoming increasingly apparent. From high unemployment rates, to the uncertain future our graduates face.

A recent opinion piece in iNews considers the increasing challenges facing our graduates:

‘Young graduates can thrive in offices – remote working means many will miss out

It argues that remote working and a lack of social integration could lead to a decline in soft skills. This could lead to growing issues with graduate retention if businesses expect graduates to understand how to communicate in the office setting from the off.

The decline in seasonal work, as well as the impact of the pandemic on how retail operates, means a lot of the soft skills students can develop alongside studying, are affected.

The article ended with an important question for us all, education and businesses alike: ‘what can we do to support them?’

As a University, what are we doing?

As universities, it is important that we provide the opportunities to our students and graduates to build up their soft skills to increase their chances of transferring these into the workplace. A lot of these skills are achieved through their degree and their adaption to remote learning is a testament to their resilience.

But what about those other soft skills that they are missing from retail settings or in-person group tasks?  In a previous blog, we discussed how upskilling plays an important role in gaining these soft skills alongside more technical skills.

With free local support on offer from universities, such as the STEM-Up programme, and wider online support from the government with free online courses, HEIs are continuously working to support both businesses and students to be work-ready.

However, it is not just students that need this support: recent graduates also need access to the same level of support and resources. A local programme, Graduate Re-Tune, run in partnership between Birmingham City University, Aston University and the Department for Work and Pensions, works to support graduates in the local region to boost their employability. A consultant access possible skills gaps, and works closely with the individual to fill skills gaps and link with local business for recruitment support.

As a business, what can we do?

Businesses are facing a number of challenges: office space; managing workforce to ensure safety; an uncertain future and adjustment to delivering remotely.

It is understandable to have concerns about recruitment and on-boarding new starters in the current restrictions and work settings.

Another concern highlighted in the news article was around graduates finding it difficult for them to learn from others and finding it hard to impress their bosses, either with their character or through their development within their industry.

A risk to social mobility and diversity was also discussed within remote working. Quite rightly, we should be concerned about mental wellbeing and what we can do to offer support. Through the STEM-Up programme, you will be able to access mental health training, enabling businesses to support the wellbeing of their staff.

As well as this training, receiving support at the workplace and institutional levels needs to be easily accessible. Mind have a range of useful resources for individuals and businesses.

Another opportunity is through sessions such as ‘Meet the Employer’ at universities, with the aim of connecting with recent graduates and students pre-application. During these sessions, the connection between the future starter and business is established early on.

Covering topics such as work culture, development opportunities and work-life balance can allow for applicants to have a key insight into the business and feel connected from the start.

We’re here to support you

If you are a business looking to recruit talented work-ready graduates and students, whether you are an individual who is looking to build their skills to help your business grow, or are a graduate looking to access support in job searching, we hope this blog has given you an insight into the support available. As a community, we can come together and support one another as we navigate through 2021.

To find out more about how we can support, or how you can access student and graduate talent, enquire today

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