SUPPORTING the Tees Valley economy is at the core of Teesside University’s philosophy – and now the credit crunch is starting to bite, this role has never been more vital.
"It’s a responsibility we gladly accept," said the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Graham Henderson. "In a recession, it’s even more important for the University to provide employers with the higher skills they need to take their businesses forward, and to help individuals improve their job prospects through new qualifications."
So what real help can the University give to businesses and individuals facing uncertain times?
Help for business
Professor Henderson says: "We've gone out and asked 300 local businesses how we can help them with the re-training and re-skilling of their workforces; and 47% have told us that they would welcome specific programmes on managing through the recession.
"So, working with the North East Chamber of Commerce, that's exactly what we are providing through the Teesside Business School Future Management Masterclass series, which started this month."
Other real help for business includes:
Innovation and new business processes – specialist support to help with future-proofing business. This could be a student or graduate placement, a piece of consultancy, or a high-end Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP), such as the University’s very fruitful relationship with Tyneside-based Wellstream International.
This has seen two talented graduates working with the company as KTP associates to introduce a total enterprise integration package, improving the management of technology across the whole business.
Speciality chemicals supply chain – a new Science to Business Hub, supported by the European Regional Development Fund, will see the University helping over 100 small local companies to share best practice, network and tap into the latest research.
Business start-up and incubation – an award-winning on-campus service provides accommodation and practical support for graduates and others starting up new companies. Some of the 120+ companies already set up have come from the DigitalCity Fellowship scheme designed to help budding digital entrepreneurs develop their promising business ideas.
The new Institute of Digital Innovation, part of the DigitalCity partnership with Middlesbrough Council, also provides first-class accommodation for developing businesses who want to work alongside University research and development teams. Rents are being held at current levels during the recession.
The University is, of course, a major business undertaking in its own right, and Professor Henderson says: "In order to work with businesses effectively, it's important that we behave like a business, so we have appointed a team of Business Account Managers to interface with clients and look after their needs."
With 2000 staff and 24,000 students, the University is in a good position to make a significant contribution to the local economy. In the last six months, nearly two thirds of its expenditure has been procured in the North-East and Yorkshire – and over one third in the Tees Valley itself.
The University is also pressing ahead with a major building programme. Construction work begins this month on a dental technology training and sports therapy centre on the main Middlesbrough campus – not only creating facilities for students but also providing a valuable service to the community. The project will create around 150 construction and auxiliary jobs over the next 18 months. A second new capital development is earmarked for Darlington, with work expected to start in early 2010 and a new teaching block is planend for the Middlesbrough campus for 2011..
The University has renewed its commitment to pay all invoices to supplier terms, and within 20 days or sooner wherever possible. Director of Finance Heather Ashton says: "There’s a strong commitment to support the local economy."
Help for individuals
For people who want to change career or develop new skills, the University can provide advice and support. Schemes like the taster Spring and Summer Universities are free this year. They’re a great way to develop new skills for employment or further study.
Other help for individual students includes:
Part-time study – tuition fees pegged at last-year’s level for the next year-and-a-half, and courses free to students on very low incomes.
Bursaries for full-time undergraduates on low incomes, and for full-time students on Masters courses.
Making experience count – recognising the learning value of experience and making it count towards a University award
Special advice and guidance for students on benefits – to make sure they get the right support.
Tailored funding advice – to help students maximise their funding entitlements.
Graduate support – our award-winning careers service helps current and past graduates facing a difficult jobs market
"I want the University of Teesside to provide a service that responds directly to need in these difficult economic times," says Prof Henderson. "We’re working closely with colleges and regional partners to make sure we offer accessible and coordinated support, so that businesses and people in the region come through the recession with the best possible chance of success."