University and local business links enhance student employment

    Meredith Smith, business, community and graduate manager at Southampton Solent University, says it’s hugely important for universities to work closely with local businesses to have a positive impact on the local economy…


    As a university, Solent strives to support students by creating as many real-world opportunities as possible during and after their time of study.

    During term time, students make up a large percentage of the population of Southampton. With a variety of skills available, we now have a number of successful initiatives in place to help introduce students to some of the successful businesses across Southampton. These partnerships provide industry advice, work experience and can sometimes lead to full-time employment after graduation.

    We have had a number of recent successes which highlight that these programmes do work. Most recently, we hit the top 50 for graduate employment, recognising that our graduates are some of the most employable in the country, according to the latest data from HESA.

    Earlier this year, we were also ranked ninth in the sector for graduate start-ups, according to HEFCE, with 110 graduate start-ups in 2015-16, including freelance work, self-employment, and new businesses.

    Tim Skelton-Smith, Solent alumnus and PR and corporate communications manager at Old Mutual Wealth, on his experience as a mentor: “The mentoring programme reminded me how much attitude and perseverance can replace what someone might lack in experience. It’s a hugely rewarding process and I was delighted that Emma was so successful, with three job offers.”

    Our dedicated careers advice and employability service – Solent Futures – leads on a number of positive programmes, which have helped us to secure long-lasting relationships with local businesses, as well as enhance student employability. Some of these programmes include mentoring and a free job listing site.

    Professional mentoring programme

    Solent Futures’ professional mentoring programme aims to equip students and recent graduates to increase their skills, to support the transition into the workplace and to secure professional and graduate roles.

    The programme is open to every student, with a particular focus on mentees that have a disability, are mature and also students from a minority ethnic group. This year we are also looking for mentors for recent graduates, including our graduate entrepreneurs.

    Last year, we had 66 companies and 119 mentors involved, including Carnival UK, Arqiva, Blake Morgan, IBM, Enterprise-Rent-A-Car – to name a few. This has been a great way for employers to get involved with Solent and to share knowledge and experience by just giving a bit of their time to make a real difference. The programme is easy to join and flexible around working life – ‘mentees’ can not only broaden their skills, but network with organisations, and ‘mentors’ can make a real difference to the student or graduate.

    For both mentor and mentee, it encourages development of personal and professional skills, such as listening, how to hold productive meetings, goal setting, diary management and communication skills. We offer an initial induction and support along the way with networking opportunities, including a celebration event at the end of the programme where mentee and mentor can be acknowledged for their hard work. We had some great feedback at this year’s celebration event.

    Emma Grimes, BA (Hons) marketing with advertisement management graduate, on her experience of being mentored: “I feel as though the mentoring scheme has helped me immensely, not only boosting my confidence but also giving me real work experience, which I can refer to in interviews.”

    Solent Graduate Jobs

    Solent Graduate Jobs is our tailor-made online recruitment site, putting students in contact with employers who are offering placements, graduate jobs, work experience, internships or volunteering opportunities.

    To advertise any positions within your organisation, you can simply register an account at This is a free of charge service and enables you to both promote your business and recruit talent in one place.” 


    For further information on Solent Futures and the programmes in place, contact:

    Meredith Smith

    023 8201 3734