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XpoNorth and University of the Highlands and Islands announce unique programme for students


By Margaret Chrystall


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Creative industries students at the University of the Highlands and Islands are set to be offered specialist support to make them ‘market ready quicker’ thanks to an ongoing partnership with creative economy support network, XpoNorth.

Ellie McLaren. Picture: Martin Forry
Ellie McLaren. Picture: Martin Forry

The UHI LevelUp! initiative, which was trialled last year, will fully launch today (Monday, January 31) offering students with a desire to work in the creative industries the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the sector and professional support to forge clearer career pathways upon graduation.

This customised suite of services will offer a mix of workshops and training, an elevated level of networking opportunities and access to high-level professional content to prepare students for industry, highlight current and future opportunities and allow them to more fully explore the diversity of opportunities available across the sector.

The creative industries were one of the hardest hit during the pandemic, and the creative economy is constantly evolving as a result. It is insight such as this which will prove invaluable to students looking to pursue a career within the creative economy after their studies.

Last year’s partnership saw over 60 students receive high-level specialist 1-2-1 mentorship and the wider course content being made available to all creative industry students across the UHI network.

Alex Smith of XpoNorth said: “After a hugely successful initial pilot of the UHI LevelUp! programme, we’re delighted to have worked with the innovative team at the university to expand and develop the project further, allowing us to offer a broader range of opportunities to their creative industry student networks. The key aim of the partnership is to support students to prepare for a career in the sector and gain insights, mentorship, specialist advice and access to networks which can support them to better understand and explore professional opportunities.

“With the creative industries and wider economy still feeling the effects of the pandemic, it is more important than ever that students and commercial outlets connect to develop career pathways for future talent entering the marketplace.”

Dr Jen Vanderhoven, vice principal – engagement at the University of the Highlands and Islands added: “Through collaborations like this, we create opportunities to realise transformational impacts for our region, its economy and its people. It is vital to be able to respond quickly to sector challenges as we recover from the pandemic. Having laid such strong foundations in delivering a successful pilot programme with XpoNorth, we can now enhance the support available to help prepare our students to excel in their career journeys and to understand their future learning

needs.”

Ellie McLaren, who took part in the LevelUp! trial last year, graduated from the University of the Highlands and Islands, enrolled at Lews Castle College in Stornoway, with a First Class BA (Hons) Applied Music degree and is now studying towards a Masters degree in marketing. She is also teaching private pupils the fiddle and recently performed a brand new arrangement at Celtic Connections which she was commissioned to write by Hands Up For Trad and Stonehaven Folk Festival.

Ellie said: “I wanted to take part in the LevelUp! programme as I was able to see the great opportunities it could hold for someone like me. The industry advice alone was enough to convince me to take part. My experience with LevelUp! was enhanced by the role of Student Ambassador which was offered to me by XpoNorth.

"I worked alongside them for three months on the lead up to my graduation, with the aim of encouraging and reaching out to students in order to get them to engage with XpoNorth’s activities and the wealth of knowledge they have as an organisation.

“I feel that the most important skill which I have learned from LevelUp! is to put myself out there and speak to people.

"LevelUp! showed me that it’s sometimes who you know, and networking is so valuable. I’d certainly recommend the LevelUp! programme to any student who is perhaps looking for that piece of advice when transitioning from being a full-time student to making a career or beginning work, as XpoNorth and LevelUp! offer so many opportunities.”

Students looking to register their interest in LevelUp! should visit: www.uhi.ac.uk/levelup


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