Employer engagement at Sheffield Hallam is addressing regional and business challenges

Aug 8, 2022 | Case studies, Work experience/internships

ISE Award winner Sheffield Hallam explains how its employer engagement programme is providing vital work experience for students while addressing regional challenges.

The Higher Skills Higher Growth (HSHG) project, led by Sheffield Hallam, provides SMEs, start-ups and microbusinesses with a tailored business package to support innovation and develop new opportunities.

The employer engagement programme is helping to address key challenges within the regional economy, whilst providing opportunities for students and graduates to gain employment.

Support includes free training opportunities, providing the right graduates and students for projects and work placements, the use of world-class facilities, and consultancy with specialist academics.

Over 500 SMEs will partner with the project, providing 800 work experience opportunities for students and graduates.


The HSHG project, part funded through the EU, is an innovative three-year project (Aug 2020 – July 2023) supporting Sheffield City Region (SCR) SME market.  It aims to:

  • Support 500 SME businesses in the Sheffield City Region
  • Create 800 impactful work experience opportunities for students and graduates
  • Streamline the combined services open to SMEs across higher education and further education
  • Retain graduate talent within the region

Project Partners, Sheffield Hallam University, The Sheffield College and RNN Group provide a single point of contact for SMEs to develop FE (Further Education) and HE (Higher Education) relationships. 

HSHG provides added value by linking existing initiatives to provide a partnership service for 500 employers, and 800 students and graduates, increasing opportunities across the region to create highly skilled, sustainable employment opportunities with growth and productivity benefits for business. 

HSHG recognises the time limitations and restrictions around recruitment and skill development faced by smaller businesses in the region, by offering a bespoke, tailored service via a business skills consultation, plan formulation/signposting and ongoing support for future growth. 

By taking this strategic approach, SCR benefits by increasing the number of businesses achieving or exceeding their growth aims, and by encouraging more graduates to begin careers in the region post-graduation. This supports our strategy as a Civic University to help retain graduate talent in the local area through the creation of practical student projects, placements, internships and graduate roles. 

As well as new jobs, the region faces significant challenges around the impact of an increasingly aging workforce (especially in more technical sectors such as engineering/manufacturing and construction). Supplying a workforce to meet demand is a priority for action: to ensure that we have the labour market capacity to fill these roles. 

Wider support

We consistently review our support of businesses and students to ensure effective delivery.  In addition to the project partners, our steering group members, who represent the Local Authorities and Chambers of Commerce, bring a ‘joined up’ approach, which benefits SMEs and students by ensuring our project dovetails with the wider support available from multiple external services and programmes. 

HSHG is now a catalyst for developing more meaningful partnerships between SMEs looking to invest in CPD and training to enable bespoke business solutions that sit across the university product portfolio.


HSHG evidences activity through meaningful industry partnerships and provision of multi-level work experience.

Partnership support for SME businesses is collated through consultation forms as a starting point for tailored support to stimulate business. Pipeline support is mapped out by a dedicated HSHG account manager with a commitment to a long-term partnership.

Impact is gathered via participant output forms, demonstrating the value of support to industry, demographics are reviewed providing a full picture of the range of support that HSHG offers to students from all levels of study and background. 

HSHG allows students to apply their knowledge in industry. For example, the SME focussed Graduate Internship scheme that successfully gave access to employment for 195 graduates (2021) from a widening participation background. This scheme is currently in progress supporting our graduates of 2022 and will run again in 2023. It forms just part of the wider impact HSHG has facilitated within our local communities.

By undertaking work experience on the HSHG programme the project achieved: 

  • 93% of businesses felt they were able to make an impact on the development of the graduate’s knowledge, skills and competencies during their internship. 
  • 52% of graduates are now in work or further study within four weeks of finishing their Hallam funded Internship

Sheffield Hallam was awarded Best University and Employer Engagement Strategy at the ISE Awards 2022.

Read more case studies from ISE award winners

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