Stories of Success Series (3).


Stories of Success Series (3).


The Story of Success Series is brought to you by the Enterprise and Engagement Team at Canterbury Christ Church University to provide information and insights into the support available to local businesses and entrepreneurs.

Your organisation can recruit our talented students and graduates, commission research or consultancy to drive your business goals, hire our specialist facilities or event spaces, or collaborate with us to grow your business.

The next segment in our ‘Stories of Success’ series will discuss GradForce, a project funded by the Office for Students (OfS) that aims to help local students transition into highly skilled graduate employment.

Since the project began, the GradForce team have developed close relationships with small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and have worked to improve graduate outcomes in the Kent and Medway area. Offering a bespoke recruitment service to ‘match-make’ talented graduates with organisations to meet business needs, working with the GradForce team can reduce the time, effort and costs associated with the recruitment process.

The GradForce project has gone from strength-to-strength with several successful placements confirmed. Whilst the pandemic has been challenging for SMEs in the region, there is a growing confidence, and a strong appetite for hiring new talent. With record levels of vacancies on a national level and a renewed sense of stability in the economy, Kent’s SMEs are increasingly viewing Christ Church GradForce graduates as the key to their success.

Jack Bidewell, GradForce Employer Development Coordinator at Canterbury Christ Church University engages with SMEs in the region to assist their search for Christ Church graduate talent. Working closely with businesses to determine the skills and experience needed, Jack presents and discusses potential candidates with the decision makers of the business, ensuring that the right match is made for their vacancy. Once a placement is made, Jack will provide regular follow-up support where needed for both the business and the student.

We asked him to provide us with some insight into how he can support businesses, some of the successes the project has had to date, and what the future holds for GradForce.

What placements have been made recently?

‘We recently placed a student at Dempson, leading UK based Manufacturer based near Maidstone. Their Managing Director came to our first GradForce conference, where we invited many local businesses to the University to learn more about the project. As a result, we were able to build a close working relationship with the business, additionally offering services from our Unitemps temporary staffing service.’


What was the process for Dempson?

‘Dempson were keen to find, and appoint a Trainee Sales and Marketing Officer to the team. We arranged a call where we discussed the requirements for the role, how to make it more appealing to graduates and how our match-making service may be able to assist with their search.

After a conversation with their Managing Director, it was clear that the business needed someone who could use social media as a means of engagement and use relevant platforms to raise the profile of the organisation. Given the courses available at the University, such as Marketing, Advertising, Creative Writing, and Digital Media, we were confident we would be able to find the perfect match.

We advertised to our cohort of students and supported them with their applications. Subsequently, we were able to secure two interviews for the post and by the end of the week, an offer was made to one of our GradForce graduates (the same week of interview!). With just a short gap between offer and start date, I am happy to report that, a week in, the graduate is “doing brilliantly and picking things up very quickly. So quickly in fact that I’ve actually escalated the training plan I had in place which is always a good thing!”– Lauren Abbott – Commercial Manager’

What other successes can you tell us about?

Watermelon Research

‘Another success story of note has been the placement of a Helpdesk Support Officer at Watermelon Research. Watermelon, “a consultancy of Customer Experience experts” again, attended our GradForce Conference pre-pandemic. I was subsequently able to meet their Director of Operations to gain an in-depth understanding of the business and the role. We then got to work promoting the opportunity to our students and assisting with their applications. After a successful interview, one of our graduates secured the position.’

What is one reason why a business should hire a graduate from the GradForce programme?

‘The number one selling point I have for GradForce is the nature of the programme itself. As an extra-curricular activity, students sign up to the programme themselves and take part in their spare time alongside their studies. This to me (and the businesses worked with so far concur) shows the drive, willingness-to-learn and ambition to enter the world of work post-university.’

Concluding remarks from Jack-

‘With national job vacancies at a record high, it is clear there is a skills shortage and a need for businesses to engage with Universities and find suitable candidates for vacant roles. GradForce facilitates the link between local SMEs and talented graduates, providing a direct line of communication between the latest skills and the current vacancies.

Could now be the right time to ‘give a grad a go’ and build a workforce for the future?

GradForce is a project built solely to assist Kent’s SMEs with this goal, addressing the regional skills shortage and giving Kent SMEs additional support in their journey of finding the right individual to meet their job requirements. Our match-making service finds you the right graduate to join your team, whilst offering you on-going support with the placement. We will soon be offering support to SMEs with the creation of graduate schemes for their own organisation. This will involve providing Belbin Team Roles to gain a better perspective of your business. We can even offer a selection of discounted post-graduate business courses to help upskill your existing workforce.’

The University’s Future 360 framework is designed to provide a holistic employability education that prepares our students to be adaptable, enterprising professionals, GradForce is part of this wider offer, with the next programme set to run in the new year. There are approximately 60,000 SMEs in Kent and many of these will have potential opportunities that would be suitable for a graduate. To find out more, please get in touch on

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