Legacy plan for Leicester's Future Leaders will boost employability

A project to improve career outcomes for Black, Asian and minority ethnic students and help businesses hire a more diverse workforce has created a lasting legacy to benefit graduates and companies in Leicester.

Leicester’s Future Leaders is “quite simply, one of the best things we have ever done,” said Richard Bowden, Interim Head of Graduate Success at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU).

DMU has submitted its final report to the Office for Students, which funded the £406,000 project, outlining achievements including:

  • Creating a community of students, businesses and mentors committed to improving graduate-level roles and opportunities for Black, Asian and minority ethnic students

  • A series of successful spin-off projects which have created new career opportunities for students in Leicester, improving graduate retention

An online toolkit designed to help Leicester companies wanting to make more diverse, inclusive hires

  • Establishing an accelerator programme for Black, Asian and minority ethnic students on internships
  • Its impact on companies and organisations such as Dunelm and Leicestershire Police’s strategies on equality, diversion and inclusion


The project aimed to help more Black graduates find graduate-level jobs, and work with businesses to champion a more inclusive approach to recruitment.

Leicester’s Future Leaders has won several accolades including Times Higher Education (THE)’s Outstanding Support for Students, and the Award for Excellence in Diversity, from East Midlands Chamber.

Vanessa Haye, project manager, said: “One of the most exciting outcomes of the project was the value of direct conversations between businesses, students and graduates to discuss and debate recruitment issues first-hand.

“This collaborative approach enabled participants to cut through misconceptions on both sides. It also led to businesses employing graduates on the spot, and to students believing in their talents and deciding Leicester is a place they want to stay.”

DMU teamed up with Brewin Dolphin Wealth Management, Eileen Richards Recruitment and Freeths solicitors as business partners, and brought in consultants including Gradconsult, Prince’s Trust, Access Generation and Business in the Community to support the work.

Students and graduates worked with businesses to develop a toolkit that took companies through the recruitment process and how to make it more inclusive. In-depth diagnostic sessions were done with 10 businesses to help support them to transform their hiring process, working with them one to one.

Emma Anderson, director of Freeths, said: “”It has been incredibly rewarding to be part of this project which was born out of an equality and diversity event at the Leicester Business Festival held by Freeths, Brewin Dolphin Wealth Management and  Eileen Richards Recruitment.

“The aims and achievements of Leicester’s Future Leaders, which fully aligns with Freeths’ own diversity and inclusion initiatives, are vitally important for improving the recruitment and retention of Black, Asian and minority ethnic graduates in our region both now and in the future and ensures that businesses make the most of the wealth of talent available to them.” 

Richard Bowden, Interim Head of Graduate Success at DMU, said: “Although technically the project has come to an end, we are determined that it will become part of ‘business as usual’ for us at DMU. We know that there is an opportunity

“Leicester’s Future Leaders has been a huge collaborative effort. Our students co-creating the programme, working with businesses and our own employability teams, gave a real sense of ownership and involvement and they can see their work has made a tangible difference.”

The project was one of 16 national projects designed to increase regional graduate opportunity by testing new approaches and contributing to learning across the sector.

It also led to spin off work, such as the creation of BrightER Futures, which paired students with city businesses for short internships to showcase the breadth of career opportunities in Leicester.

An support programme to help Black, Asian and minority ethnic graduates was developed to boost their experience on internships and three companies developed internships specifically for DMU students and graduates. 

Posted on: Wednesday 29 March 2023

  Search news archive