An initiative to help De Montfort University Leicester students from minority backgrounds develop their business leadership skills has been shortlisted for an industry award.
Launched at the start of the 2021/22 academic year, Lead and Inspire is one of five university programmes to be nominated for an Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS) Award for Excellence in Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity.
The five-week programme enables Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) students from the Business and Law faculty (BaL) to practice their pitching, networking, selling and interviewing skills through a series of workshops, interactive games and seminars.
Backed by DMU-Procurement, Reed, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Howes Percival, the inaugural Lead and Inspire proved to be a resounding success. Of the 34 students who took part, nearly half secured employment or work experience after completing the programme, including two students who obtained a graduate role at one of the partner businesses.
Sam Dziemianko, Career Development Manager within the DMU Works team and co-creator of the programme, believes the measurable impact it has had on those who took part may prove decisive.
“We were looking to address some of the internally identified issues among this cohort of BAME business and law students,” he said.
“They struggled with imposter syndrome, a lack of professional networks and accessing highly skilled employment, so by consulting BAME academics and the Decolonising DMU team, we looked at ways of adapting the project to meet their needs.
“Many of these students are the first in their families to go to university. They didn’t have many networking opportunities before coming to university, which affected their confidence, especially interacting with employers.
“Their business acumen and personalities really shone through though when we started playing the games and they could put the skills they were learning in their courses and through Lead and Inspire to the test.
“By the end of the programme, the students were actively putting themselves out there, speaking to employers at networking events and making friends within the group – it was actually very fulfilling to see and the results speak for themselves.
“In total, 95 per cent of students felt their confidence, leadership and network had grown as a result of the programme and three-quarters of those enrolled in the project had created a LinkedIn profile, or used their account more because of the programme. Nearly half of the students went on to find potential work which is just amazing for me”.
“Without the passion and drive from the students, the first Lead and Inspire would not be in the running for any awards. This nomination is a glowing testament to the hard work that they put in.”
Lead and Inspire was created as the university looks to close the attainment and progression gap for students from BAME backgrounds.
Latest government statistics show that 88.6 per cent of white graduates were in sustained employment or further education one year after graduating, compared to just 66.3 per cent of graduates from mixed white and black Caribbean backgrounds.
Throughout the programme, students are placed into teams and are tasked with solving a business brief put forward by one of the organisations involved in the project.
At the end of the five weeks, the teams will present their findings to a judging panel including representatives from their chosen business, with the winners announced at an awards evening at Trinity Chapel.
Ebitimi Imomotebegha, Safiyya Alibhai, Saumya Astavans, Sanaa Khalifa, Simona Bhatia and Siphumelele Sobopha scooped the top prize to round off the inaugural Lead and Inspire programme back in December 2021.
The group’s pitch to Enterprise-Rent-A-Car was praised for its socio-economic and financial analysis by Enterprise Holdings’ talent acquisition manager, Jamie Wharfe.
Speaking after the event, Ebitimi said: “I enjoyed improving my management and consultancy skills and learning about new concepts that will make me a better leader in the future. Competing against other teams, making new friends and eventually winning are just the highlights of this great experience.”
In total 34 students across undergraduate and postgraduate studies took part in the inaugural BAME Lead and Inspire programme, having either applied to take part or received a nomination from their tutor.
The next Lead and Inspire programme will start on Thursday, November 3.
Students or employers interested in taking part in the scheme can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.