Invest North: Give all young people the same opportunities

The boss of UA92 spoke of the need to offer young people – regardless of their background or postcode – the same opportunities if the country is truly going to level up.

Sarah Prowse believes UA92 can play “an important” role in helping the region to provide its industry with a pipeline of talent and help close the skills gap.

Speaking at Invest North’s talent and skills session, Sarah said: “If you look at the North, only one in five young learners from the most disadvantaged background go on to higher education, and that’s well below the national average.

“So that is a big problem. Here at UA92 we are actively recruiting into those more disadvantaged communities and that’s much harder because those youngsters don’t think it’s a natural pathway for them.

“And so, there’s a lot of work we must do in the community to break down some of those preconceived ideas about higher education and remove some of the barriers that they’ve got.”

She added costs was a massive barrier and that UA92 was working with its partners to help alleviate some of those pressures.

She said: “Although they have access to student loans, going to university is expensive.

“We’ve put together a very innovative financial package we call ‘Make it for Real’ and we’ve done it in conjunction with our industry partners where we offer all students who are currently on free school meals a free laptop, free data for three years, free travel from home to university, free lunch every day, and a starter kit to set up their apartment if they are moving into student digs.

“And that package is worth over £5,000 and it just removes those unforeseen costs of going to university.”

University Academy 92 (UA92) was co-founded by Manchester United legends, the Class of 92, and academic pioneers, Lancaster University.

Based in Old Trafford, Manchester, UA92 prepares its students for the world of work by offering industry-led courses that have character and personal development at the core.

Sarah added: “We are an employer, but we’re also an educator and so we are part of the solution to providing a pipeline of talent.

“For me as an employer, my perspective is that I think it’s great that people are a real focus now in business and it’s good thing that businesses are having to really focus on how they attract and retain their staff.

“Then from an educator’s point of view, I’m actually really excited for our students because we’ve got our first year graduating this summer and they’re graduating into a market where the power has moved to the candidate and to the employee and that’s a really golden opportunity for new graduates coming into the market.”

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