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13 May 2013 Last updated at 12:49

Launch of Professional Services Academy

Image shows: logo for Greater Brimingham Professional Services Academy

Birmingham's biggest FE college is creating a specialist academy, to guarantee that the city's professional services sector can satisfy its skills needs - long into the 21st century.

Birmingham Metropolitan College (BMET) has created a new purpose-built centre, on its Sutton Coldfield campus, to house the venture.

Recruitment for the Greater Birmingham Professional Services Academy starts this month (May) and the innovative concept gets under way in September, with a curriculum focused on qualifications in law, finance, accounting, banking and insurance.

The venture has already been backed by seven of the biggest and most successful organisations in the city's professional services sector. Deutsche Bank, Gateley LLP, GVA , KPMG, Lloyds Bank and Wesleyan Assurance Society have signed on as official partners.

Each will support BMET by providing high-level professional support for the students, including internships at their Birmingham offices, mentoring by senior staff, workshop sessions, and 'guru' lectures at the campus by members of their executive teams.

The academy is also being backed by Solihull-based LaSer UK, the consumer finance specialist and leading provider of card, loyalty and retail finance solutions working with many of the UK's leading brands.

The catalyst for the academy was the belief of BMET's Principal and Chief Executive, Dame Christine Braddock DBE that the city's professional services sector was in danger of losing out, as other sectors stepped up their recruitment efforts.

"Traditionally, it's been left to individual organisations to devise their own recruitment strategies, and they haven't come together to portray themselves as an entity,” she said.

"However, we've seen in recent years that other sectors - engineering, creative, health and digital come immediately to mind - have strengthened their response to recruitment challenges.

"At the same time, I thought many local youngsters were missing out on stimulating and well-paid jobs in professional services, because they wrongly believed that it was a sector which welcomed only graduates.”

As the academy concept began to blossom, Christine took her thoughts to Steve Hollis, the Deputy Chairman of the Greater Birmingham & Solihull LEP, and then also KPMG’s Midland Regional Chairman.

He has since retired from the KPMG accountancy partnership, after 30 years, but remains committed to the new venture, and is passionate about what it can deliver for both the city, and the students.

"As soon as I heard about the idea, I was really keen, not just from KPMG's perspective, but as a way of getting the biggest employment sector in Greater Birmingham more in tune with the career prospects of local youngsters,” said Steve.

"I share Christine's view that the professional services sector needs a much greater profile, and such professions as accountancy and banking also can't continue to be solely the domain of middle-class kids, who have been to university.

"Everyone who is involved now has a chance to create very close connections between potential employers and the academy, and to make sure that the curriculum is fine-tuned, to match the requirements of the companies in this sector to the skill-set of the students.

"From a broader LEP perspective, and understanding the work which BMET has already done in establishing several academy models, we can then all start to look at how we might create other academies, which would focus on different business sectors."

"We couldn't have attracted a better group of partners for the academy, although it's always possible that others will come forward in the next few months, said Christine.

"However, the entry criteria for the students will be very demanding. Everyone who qualifies from the academy has to have the right skill-set and level of commitment, so recruiting the right youngsters will be a very precise and exacting process."

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