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Building confidence with the One Greater Manchester Business Challenge 

Levelling up

It’s not every day that the Mayor of Greater Manchester asks you to share your ideas with him on how to help the region recover from the pandemic.

But that was the task put to 40 students from Manchester Metropolitan University, who took part in the One Greater Manchester Business Challenge. 

Levelling up is all about enabling people and places to reach their potential. And, as a North-West employer, we’re keen to play a part in the region’s ongoing growth story. 

So we joined forces with Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) on a mentoring programme that’s helped to build students’ confidence while connecting them with civic leadership and local businesses.

Preparing to shine 

Presenting their ideas to Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, alongside local business and MMU leaders, would be the culmination of the One Greater Manchester Business Challenge, a six-week development programme.

To help make sure students were ready to shine, the programme’s other elements included coaching with one of 22 mentors from Deloitte, and inspirational ‘Met Talks’ from local entrepreneurs.

On the day itself, the group shared a range of fantastic ideas, including how students could help to raise aspirations with young people by mentoring with local schools, and making use of vacant spaces across the city for creative pursuits.  

“One major piece of feedback to students was that ideas similar to those they presented were already being discussed by regional leaders,” says Professor Hannah Holmes, deputy faculty pro-vice chancellor and dean of the Business School at MMU. 

“That’s a huge deal for an undergraduate. It showed them their ideas are valid, and they all deserve to contribute to the conversation.

“Many of our students’ ideas come from having some experience of the issues that we’re asking them to consider, which means their suggestions on how we can tackle them are creative and insightful.

“As a result, this connection between young people and the civic leadership agenda in Greater Manchester is really valuable.” 

Building connections

Laoise Flanagan, a Deloitte director and visiting professor at Manchester Met, co-created the programme.

“Everyone has an important contribution to make. But not everyone has access to the same opportunities to connect with people in the business community and civic leadership.

“This challenge allowed students to build connections and confidence, working with Deloitte mentors and others who wanted to share their skills and offer support.

“We’re really pleased we could create an experience for students that’s amplified their credentials and will help them to stand out to future employers. And a challenge that’s allowed them to show business leaders - and themselves - what they are really capable of.

“Supporting people to come together and realise their potential are ways we, at Deloitte can support levelling up.

“We’ll continue to devise new challenges for students and providing personal mentoring, as well as supporting MMU’s Employability Week.” 

On a journey together

The impact of the One Greater Manchester Business Challenge goes far beyond the final goal of presenting project ideas to Andy Burnham.   

“At the start of the programme, all of the students were overwhelmed by the prospect of actually presenting their ideas,” Hannah continues. “There were a lot of important people in that room!

 “We watched them go on a journey together as they began to work as a team and engage with their mentors and coaches.

“Just seeing Deloitte in a new light, through their mentors, as a place they could work and a culture they can identify with is really valuable. And seeing the difference they could make by helping people who wouldn’t otherwise get this kind of support, means the mentors got a lot out of it too.” 


Growing in confidence

One example is Ayla Smith, a private equity manager for Deloitte NSE.

 “For me, the best thing about working with my mentee was seeing her come out of her shell,” says Ayla.

 “Through the programme, she went from finding it hard to believe in herself, to growing in confidence - especially in how she communicated and approached challenges.

“Since the programme finished, we’ve stayed in touch, she’ll contact me for advice on interview techniques or personal development. She works really hard and deserves to be successful.” 

“The growth in all of the students’ confidence levels was incredible to see,” Hannah concludes. “And most importantly, they learned that asking for help isn’t a weakness.

“They were different people at the end. I really think this challenge has been life-changing for them.” 

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