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Queen's Widening Participation Unit supports award-winning social mobility programme in Belfast

Queen's University Belfast is partnering with professional bodies, businesses, charities, a professional sports club and local government to support the delivery of a new social mobility scheme.

The Social Mobility Business Partnership (SMBP), a charity dedicated to supporting students from low income backgrounds wishing to pursue a career in the legal and accountancy professions, announced the launch of its work insight and skills training programme and coaching service in Belfast on 9 May 2019.

The scheme will provide up to 30 local students aged 16-18 with access to a unique, week-long, work insight and skills programme and lifetime career coaching through a dedicated online portal.

Belfast City Council will coordinate the scheme in Belfast and will source students alongside Queen's University Belfast’s Widening Participation Unit, Business in the Community NI and Bytes.

Professor David Jones, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education and Students, said: "At Queen's, we want everyone to have the chance to learn. We are, therefore, delighted to be supporting the first ever SMBP scheme here in Belfast. This is an excellent initiative which will help create real opportunity for young people – including helping them to gain first-hand experience with some of Northern Ireland's leading employers – and I am proud that our Widening Participation and Students' Union teams will be contributing to its success."

The work insight and training programme will run between 1 and 5 July 2019, with students visiting four different businesses over four days – UTV, PwC, BT and Herbert Smith Freehills – and spending the final day at Ulster Rugby to learn about the psychology of resilience and goal achievement.

The programme will help students gain an understanding of the legal, accountancy and business professions through intensive skills training and interactive games. Professional bodies for the legal and accountancy professions, ACCA and the Law Society of Northern Ireland respectively, will deliver sessions on career pathways. The students will also have access to ongoing support from virtual coaches who will be on hand to provide assistance with CVs, filling in application forms and interview preparation. Queen's Students' Union will also deliver a session on student finance.

Paula Moran, Outreach and Learning Development Manager, said: "Queen's Widening Participation Unit are delighted to be one of the partners in the exciting new Belfast Social Mobility Business Partnership Programme. A key strand of our new Queen's Widening Participation Strategy is about working in partnership to achieve our aim of reaching the most able but least likely to attend higher education and this is a great example of how we can take this aim forward."

The scheme initially started in London in 2014 with 20 students, expanded year-on-year, with over 500 students participating in 2019 across the UK. In 2017, with the financial backing of 23 organisations the scheme was turned in to a registered charity.

Barry Matthews, CEO of SMBP said: "This year is a real milestone with the scheme expanding to Belfast. The success of the scheme is built on the ethos of collaboration and the belief that no one organisation owns social mobility as an issue. Through our 130 plus partners we have created a model that makes the step on point for business easy – a day's worth of content and some sandwiches. Further, our 'off the shelf' inductions and resilience days created by our supporting regulators and resilience partners, Cleartrack Performance, has enabled volunteers from businesses and professional sports clubs alike to deliver them. Finally, our student sourcing relationships with other charities and local authorities has ensured a 'baton pass' rather than a competitive relationship."