Seven of Birmingham's biggest professional services employers have signed on as partners at the UK's first sector specific academy for young people.
The Greater Birmingham Professional Services Academy hopes to have around 200 16- to-19-year-olds for its first intake of students in September.
The academy, which will be on the Sutton Coldfield campus of Birmingham Metropolitan College, is a partnership between Birmingham’s biggest further education employer and financial services firm KPMG, Deutsche Bank, law firm Gateley, property company GVA, consumer finance company Laser UK, Lloyds Bank and Wesleyan Assurance.
It will focus on qualifications in law, finance, economics, accounting, banking and insurance with the corporate partners providing professional support for the students, including internships at their Birmingham offices, mentoring by senior staff, workshop sessions and ‘guru’ lectures by members of their executive teams.
Professsional services are seen as a growth area for the city, employing around 98,000 people and worth around £7 billion per annum in Gross Value Added according to the latest Office for National Statistics data.
BMET’s principal and chief executive Dame Christine Braddock, a board member of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP, said the catalyst for the academy was the belief the city’s professional services sector was in danger of losing out as other sectors stepped up their recruitment efforts.
“Traditionally, it’s been left to individual organisations to devise their own recruitment strategies, and they haven’t come together to portray themselves as an entity,” she said.
“I think there’s the recognition now that they cannot just rely on people coming to them. Some of the best people are being recruited into other sectors – engineering, creative, health and digital have strengthened their response to recruitment challenges.
“At the same time, I thought many local youngsters were missing out on stimulating and well-paid jobs in professional services, because they wrongly believed that it was a sector which welcomed only graduates.
“We’ve been trying to recognise the significant contribution the professional services make to the city and the activity it supports. As a board member of the LEP, we are conscious of where we are going to get people.”
Courses at the academy will be open to students with five GCSEs at Grade C or above, including Maths and English, and an interview.
Other features of the two year courses, which awards at AS/A Level, BTEC Level 3 Diploma and industry recognised qualifications such as those offered by the Association of Accounting Technicians, include softer personal development skills, corporate governance, commercial awareness and networking.
Andy Argyle, education, government and healthcare partner at KPMG in Birmingham, said: “The professional services sector has been guilty of operating in silos a little bit.
“We are changing the mix of people we are taking into KPMG, with increasingly more school leavers.
“We are oversubscribed for our school leaver and grad programmes – however we are keen to ensure that those who may not be aware of professional services opportunities or need some support and coaching to be confident to apply are supported and encouraged.
“One of the key aspects of our school leaver program was social mobility so we spot talent from as wide a pool as possible.
“You’re going to be better prepared having been on this programme. You’ll have a better experience than those coming from the standard academies.” He added: “A lot of organisations have joined school leavers programmes as part of the mix of taking accounting graduates from Oxford or Durham university say.
“After six years you have a degree, a chartered qualification and no debt. It gives people who would never have that opportunity a level playing field.”
Steve Hollis, deputy chairman of the GBSLEP, and former Midland regional chairman of KPMG said: “As soon as I heard about the idea, I was keen, not just from KPMG’s perspective, but as a way of getting the biggest employment sector in Greater Birmingham in tune with the career prospects of local youngsters.”