The Women’s Work Lab and UWE Part 2

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For the last month, my team at UWE Bristol, the Stakeholder Engagement team, have had a guest with us on placement. This is part of an initiative set up by an amazing Community Interest Company called Women’s Work Lab.

Becky Ware has joined us and very quickly become a part of the team. I have seen her confidence grow, her enthusiasm spark new ideas and her creativity bring a fresh mind-set to challenges.  Here she shares her story about the power of Women’s Work Lab, and the vital support provided by many organisations, like UWE, in offering work placements.

“Being a single stay-at-home mum, it is easy to fall into a routine, and that routine becomes a comfort that is hard to break out of.

I have been out of work for just over 9 years, in that time I had a second child, and an operation on my kidney which I had to wait a few years for.

I was trying to motivate myself into job hunting, but didn’t know where to start, having had such a large career break.

I was lucky that I had a social prescriber who texted me unexpectedly one day advising about The Women’s Work Lab (WWL), I had a look at their website, and read through all the information, a 12-week programme where they help you to get back into work sounded ideal.

I applied on a Saturday and was offered a place on the course on the following Tuesday, I had a bit of apprehension, would I be any good? Am I really the type of person that they help? Am I deserving of this? But I decided that I had to give it a go, I owed myself the chance to improve my life, and that of my kids.

The Thursday of that week I went for my first day, I arrived and waited in reception with a group of other mums, all in the same position as me, none of us knowing, really, what to expect.

The WWL course was insightful and run by a wonderful lady called Sally, she had the experience to really give us all some good advice. I’m currently only halfway through the course, the experience so far has been amazing, I’ve met some wonderful mums who are in the same position as me, and I hope we keep in touch following the end of the course.

Part of the course is a four-week work placement, I was so nervous to find out where I would be going, as were the other mums, but I was delighted to find out my placement would be at the UWE.

I’m now in my job placement, working in the FBL.

The staff in the FBL have been so incredibly welcoming, and happy to spend time with me, considering I’m not a permanent member of staff, and will only be here for 4 weeks, the amount of time and help they’ve given me has been nothing short of wonderful, their support has really helped my experience and I am so excited about looking for a job and getting back to work, I’m not sure how encouraged I would have been if I didn’t have this support.

I’ve got new experiences that will help me in my job search, even something as simple as using outlook again, and getting back into work friendly habits. The confidence this placement has given me is worth its weight in gold.

I’m so thankful to everyone in both the FBL and the WWL, without them I would probably still be at home trying to figure out the best pathway for me to return to work, and still be around for my children.

I cannot recommend the WWL course highly enough, I’m looking forward to finishing the course with some more classroom work, but I will also be very sad to leave my placement, I really feel like part of the team.”

The Women’s Work Lab and UWE Part 1

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Camilla Rigby is the Co-Founder and Joint CEO of Women’s Work Lab (WWL), a Community Interest Company with the stated aim to support under-represented women aged 25+ to fulfil their career potential and become work ready. The WWL aims to unlock potential and lay the foundations for a brighter future for the mums they work with. Outcomes for participants include new careers, positive role modelling for their families and communities and the creation of a vital support network. Camilla was virtually reintroduced to UWE when they were looking for a venue to host the Spring 2022 South Gloucestershire programme.  

The mission of WWL is in line with UWE’s core values and as a UWE alumni, we were keen to support Camilla with her endeavours. Camilla studied Business Studies, completing in 2004.  

“I enjoyed my time studying at UWE and today, as a regional hub for business, and an educational provider with enterprise, community and industry partnership at its heart, UWE seemed like the perfect place to inspire our participants.” 

“Completing my Business Studies degree really opened my eyes to what the real world of work could look like. My year-long work placement provided an amazing springboard for my career and I managed to land my first job before I’d even graduated! I am still in touch with many friends from UWE days and it’s great to see how many have followed entrepreneurial pathways. ” 

The WWL programme includes bespoke classroom training, 1-2-1 support, skills training, practical career support and a four-week work placement. During 2022, 90 women will be supported in this way across six programmes taking place in the local city/ region.  

Before Co-Founding the WWL with Rachel Mostyn in 2019, Camilla had a 15 year career in senior communications roles for household brands including Dyson & OVO Energy. As a Mum to two boys aged 9 & 11 (one who is autistic), she understands first-hand the challenges that Mums can face trying to support her family alongside work.  

“My inspiration in co-founding WWL came back in 2016 when I felt unable to juggle the pressures of work and a young family; I felt like a failure to be honest. I recognised at the same time the privilege I had and began to question how much harder it must be for women who don’t have a decent support network, or lots of work experience. I was fortunate enough to meet Rachel during this time of reflection and we began to research what was available for Mums that were unemployed and in receipt of state benefits. Turns out very little and so we set about co-designing the programme with Mums from across the City into what we have now. We’re proud to have worked with over 100 womens on their journeys back towards work, whilst building an amazing team of women who really connect and inspire the Mums we support.” 

UWE has been proud to host this inspiring initiative and work with the local community to improve outcomes for mothers who have been challenged in some way in terms of securing work. This programme really aligns with our Strategy 2030 in boosting our economy and supporting the local and regional community, and has massive societal impact which is so rewarding and essential for continued growth and success. 

“We feel as though this is just the beginning for the Women’s Work Lab. Having started in early 2020, covid has unsurprisingly hampered what we’ve been able to achieve. That said, in 2021 we know that 60% of the women we supported are now working; this is testament to their hard work and determination. It also shows why specialist employability support is so needed and it’s amazing to have the support of employers like UWE in helping these women to fulfil their potential.” 

If you would be interested in finding out more about the work of WWL, you can find additional information via their website here

UWE Bristol houses UK’s first on-campus aeroponic grow system for student business

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A vertical farming system, set up on Frenchay campus using aeroponic technology to grow and supply micro herbs and baby leaf plants, is the first of its kind to be located at a UK university. The system is being used by student venture Greener Greens Co, which Jamie Taylor founded as part of his Team Entrepreneurship degree.

The 40ft container farm, supplied by LettusGrow, provides 24m2 of growing area and houses a four-tiered vertical grow-bed. The growing process uses a software that automates LED lighting, temperature and water vapour. Nutrients are delivered to the plants via atomisers that spray an organic, nutrient-dense fog onto exposed roots (a technique called ‘aeroponics’).

Greener Greens’ plants are to include petit arugula, pea shoots, coriander, basil, pak choy and other small sprouting plants like micro broccoli, which take 11-30 days to reach full height. During this time, cycle pH levels, humidity and organic nutrient levels are automatically regulated.

Jamie Taylor said: “Nature is seasonal, but in this container farm we create our own climate to produce seasonal produce all year round. This is a really innovative system that uses no soil, no pesticides, with crop yields using 95 per cent less water and 99% less space compared to conventional land-based farming.”

The entrepreneur said Greener Greens’ ethos is to have a lower carbon footprint compared to other suppliers and, by providing a growth area close to the point of need, reduce food transportation miles. It is also reducing a reliance on single unit plastic by using re-usable containers to transport the plants.

Team Entrepreneurship is a degree that helps students set up a business as a team. Jamie said: “All this has only been achievable thanks to the University. Key support from UWE Bristol’s enterprise, estates, environmental and sustainability, and catering teams has been crucial in working out how to run the business and how to introduce Greener Greens produce into the university’s supply chain.”

The system is set to produce some 200kg of pea shoots per month, as this plant variety has a short grow cycle of just 12 days. Initially the vegetables will supply the University and other local customers. The enterprise then plans to set up further containers, supplying the super yacht business. “Head chefs on board need high quality produce fast so we have an opportunity to reduce carbon footprint in this industry by setting up a container in the South of France.

“Many existing suppliers to that industry use pesticides and the produce is sometimes flown over 5000 miles to Nice, which leaves a large carbon footprint.”

Greener Greens is also building a geo-temporal inventory app that will allow its customers to see what is growing in which container, so they can place orders and receive fresher produce faster. The app will also allow chefs, for the first time ever, to specify the size and shape of their salads and garnishes in-app and create bespoke garnishes.

Jamie and his Greener Greens system set up on Frenchay campus was featured in yesterday evening’s edition of the BBC’s Countryfile, available to view on iPlayer (from 29:51).

UWE Bristol Marketing undergraduates urge fellow students to register to vote

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Original source: Bristol City Council

Students in Bristol are being reminded to register to vote by a campaign inspired by fellow undergraduates.

A voter registration campaign designed by Bristol City Council has been launched with the help of digital marketing undergraduates studying at UWE Bristol in the Bristol Business School. The campaign reminds new and returning students to register to vote at their new address.

Yvonne Dawes, Head of Statutory Registration at Bristol City Council said “Lots of students don’t know that they can register to vote in both their home town and also the place where they study. Registration is very quick and easy yet some students, when they decide where to use their vote, realise too late that they are not registered in that location.”

Around 200 third year students took part in an exercise to design a register to vote campaign, adding their creativity and ideas into the planning of the campaign.

Yvonne continued: “It’s been so valuable to work with students on this campaign, and receive the insight and recommendations from young people studying marketing. There are over 50,000 students in Bristol which is 11% of Bristol’s population. We want students to know their vote will make a difference and feel engaged with local democracy.”

Tom Bowden Green, Senior Lecturer in Marketing at UWE said “This is the third year we’ve worked with Bristol City Council on ‘live’ projects. For me, it’s really valuable for my students to experience working on realistic campaigns as it’s great work experience. I was particularly pleased to work on a voter registration campaign as I think it’s so important for young people to be engaging in politics.”

It is important that young people and students in Bristol, especially students who have moved house, register to vote by midnight on 26 November if they want to vote in the upcoming General Election.

Following the General Election in December, major local elections will take place in Bristol in May where the Mayor, 70 local councillors, as well as the region’s Police and Crime Commissioner will be elected. Anyone wanting to take part in these elections will need to make sure they’re on the electoral register.

To register visit www.gov.uk/register-to-vote.

Take advantage of degree apprenticeship SME funding with UWE Bristol

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15 May 2019 15:00 – 17:00

Register here

Are you interested in upskilling your workforce and does the cost of training seem a barrier to accessing local talent?

This event provides an opportunity to hear first-hand accounts from existing businesses who have apprentices at UWE, and how to make it work. In addition to this, we will be highlighting upcoming degree apprenticeships and further opportunities for your business to train your employees at degree level with the funding available.

UWE Bristol is the only university in the region with funding from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) to support non-levy employers and has secured funding to support apprentices from Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs).

David Barrett, Director of Apprenticeships at UWE Bristol, will welcome you to the event and alongside the Degree Apprenticeship Hub team will be able to help identify your training needs and suitable solutions.
Spaces are limited for this event, so please register below.

If you have any questions about this event or degree apprenticeships please feel free to contact Ellen Parkes.

We are looking forward to meeting you and beginning the degree apprenticeship partnership journey.

The event takes place in the University Enterprise Zone on Frenchay Campus from 15:00 – 17:00.

Register here

Facebook Usage and Mental Health

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Originally posted on the Bristol Leadership and Change Centre blog here.

Dr Guru Prabhakar’s co-authored paper has been published in the International Journal of Information Management (Impact Factor: 4.5).

Facebook Usage and Mental Health: An empirical study of role of non-directional social comparisons in the UK.

This paper explores the relationship between the nature of Facebook usage, non-directional comparisons and depressive syndromes. The extant research on linkage between social media usage and mental health is inconclusive. There is small but significant causal linkage between increased non-directional social comparisons and depressive symptoms among the users.

This study hypothesizes that one of the mediating factors could be the social comparisons that Facebook users conduct whilst on the site. Dr Prabhakar’s paper therefore explores the link between non-directional social comparisons on Facebook, with increased depressive symptoms in 20-29 year olds.  In brief, a positive correlation was found between passive Facebook use and non-directional social comparisons.

The findings of the research have implications at three levels: individuals, firms and medical practitioners. The individuals shall benefit from the finding that passive Facebook usage would lead to increase in social comparison which in turn results in depressive symptoms. The passive usage behaviour includes logging into the sites and monitoring others’ profiles without any interaction. Over a period of time, this might result in depression.

The issues surrounding social media usage and mental health in the UK have also been highlighted recently in the media. For example, only a few days ago the BBC published the following article:

Mental health: UK could ban social media over suicide images, minister warns

Follow this link to view the full paper:

Nisar, T. , Prabhakar, G. , Ilavarasan, P. and Baabdullah, A. (2019) Facebook usage and mental health: An empirical study of role of non-directional social comparisons in the UK. International Journal of Information Management, 48. pp. 53-62. ISSN 0268-4012

Bristol Business School host 6th form conference for the Lighthouse School Partnership

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On Friday 19 January, Bristol Business School hosted the Lighthouse Schools Partnership for their first 6th form joint conference.

200 students from schools across North Somerset attended the conference promoting innovation, self-leadership, team work and entrepreneurship.

Director of Bristol Business Engagement Centre at the Bristol Business School, Dr Noordin Shehabuddeen, delivered a keynote address on “Innovation: the art of unlearning” and Bob Reeves, Director of the Foundation for Leadership through Sport, delivered a session on leadership alongside Bristol Bears Rugby sensation Nick Fenton-Wells. Students attended workshops throughout the day and received tours of the Business School.

The event was a huge success with great feedback from the students. One student commented “I have a UCAS application to UWE, but to be honest I was very half-hearted about it and thought I’d be going the apprenticeship route, however, after Friday, I’m thinking I need to be at UWE! I was blown away by the Law courts and the trading rooms.”

We hope to replicate this event in the future.

UWE Alumni raise over £5.5k for Help Bristol’s Homeless Charity

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Three alumni from UWE Bristol’s Team Entrepreneurship course have raised over £5.5k for local charity, Help Bristol Homeless.

Help Bristol’s Homeless aims to change the face of homelessness in Bristol. They believe a home is a right and the complex issues homeless people face will not be solved when they have the daily task of finding somewhere safe to stay.

Their mission is to develop a site with ten shipping containers, converted into self-contained studio flats, providing temporary accommodation until a service user can find a more permanent home.

Inspired by this social enterprise, Team Entrepreneurship alumni Zac Alsop, Jamie Rawsthorne and Rosh Gurung joined forces to try and make a difference.

As part of their Team Entrepreneurship degree, Zac, Jamie and Rosh all had to set up their own businesses. Rosh who set up Dazed Promotions, an events and DJ business, used his connections to secure Bristol DJ’s Roni Size and Danny Byrd for a gig to raise funds for the charity.

Zac and Jamie

Zac and Jamie (pictured) amongst other businesses, set up a successful YouTube channel which they used to raise awareness for Help Bristol’s Homeless and to promote the gig.  They recently shared a short film on Help Bristol’s Homeless on their YouTube channel which can be viewed here.

The gig was a great success and raised over £2,000.

The Team Entrepreneurship alumni have since raised an additional £5,835 for the charity. They have set a target of £25,000 which will help to build an additional two homes on the site.

The Help Bristol’s Homeless site currently has 20 shipping container homes and renovated bus that was donated by First Bus. The charity encourages anyone who stays on site to help with the construction and maintenance of the site.

To find out more and to contribute to the fundraising effort see here.

Alumni Case Study: Samira Abokor

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When Samira started out her International Business degree at UWE Bristol, she resolved to take on all the opportunities she could – both in and outside of the classroom. It has taken her to places and experiences she’d never have imagined.

From tennis to TEDx

“From the outset my degree programme had great connections with the outside world,” says Samira. “So many organisations would come in to deliver skills-based sessions, talk about the qualities they look for in employees and answer our questions.”

But it was a year-long sandwich placement in London that really took her work experience to the next step. As IBM’s Wimbledon game supporter and devices manager, and subsequently part of the Match Analysis team, Samira led presentations and talked tech with players, coaches and delegates, including Lord Coe.

A subsequent trip to Dubai provided a valuable insight into overseas operations, while an interest in languages saw Samira and a fellow intern co-found their own Learn a Language Scheme for IBM staff.

On returning to uni, Samira soon took on a new challenge in the form of organising UWE Bristol’s second-ever TEDx event. “It was a lot to do in my final year!” she says. “But I learned a lot about leadership and project management, and it opened some amazing doors.” The event attracted noteworthy speakers and sold out on the night, receiving a 96% ‘delighted’ score from TED as a result.

An international perspective on business

Wanting to hone her leadership skills further, Samira decided to stay on at UWE Bristol after graduation and study for an MBA. “It was one of the best decisions I ever made,” she says. “It was 12 months of very intense work, but it was eye-opening in the sense that it elevated everything I’d learnt in my degree.”

The course attracts students from all over the world, making it an ideal setting for sharing new ideas and practices, which Samira found particularly valuable. Her hard work and commitment were recognised when she was presented with The Bristol Business School Award for Best Performance in the MBA on graduation.

New directions

At the beginning of 2018, part-way through her MBA, Samira received a message on LinkedIn. A recruiter for Just Eat, a leading global marketplace for takeaway food delivery, liked the look of her profile, and wanted to see if she was interested in a graduate role based at the company’s tech hub in Bristol. Samira jumped at the opportunity.

Now several months into her new job, she’s learning fast. “As a graduate associate product manager, I’m the person who has to understand the product inside out,” she explains. “It’s a really varied role – I have an overview of what the whole team’s doing, ensuring we’re all working together and making the right decisions to ensure we’re delivering the service that customers expect.”

Since arriving at Just Eat, Samira has been given the opportunity to learn how to code with CodeFirst:Girls, and has also joined Just Eat’s Women in Tech group – an internal employee network which aims to promote and encourage diversity.

Outside of her day-to-day job, Samira also is also helping to inspire the next generation of tech talent as a Just Eat STEM Ambassador. As part of the programme, Samira is one of 80 Just Eat Ambassadors, working with young people across the country to encourage them to consider a career in STEM.

“Right now my focus is discovering what kind of product manager I want to be,” she says. “It’s a world I didn’t know existed till recently, but I’m very happy to start my career here and see where it takes me. Helping inspire others to do the same is really important to me. This industry is really exciting, and so long as you work hard, the opportunities are endless.”

Meanwhile, she’s accepted an invitation to join the Bristol Business School Advisory Board, so UWE Bristol looks set to continue to be an important part of Samira’s life for a long while yet.

Case Study: Empowering women through mentoring

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Over the next few weeks we will be sharing some case studies of our academic research from across the Bristol Business School. This case study looks at Professor Sue Durbin and  Empowering women through mentoring.

Written by Jeremy Allen:

In the UK, there is a distinct lack of women in engineering roles and this is prevalent in the aerospace and aviation industries. A project led by UWE Bristol that is four years in the making is helping women to move up the career ladder and to seek support by receiving mentoring from other women in the industry. This work hopes to change the way females are perceived in male-dominated industries and aims to put an end to gender inequality in engineering.

“The UK is the country in Europe that has the least amount of women in engineering and this includes the aerospace industry, where there is a chronic shortage of females,” says project leader Professor Sue Durbin, whose research specialises in gender inequalities in employment in male dominated industries. “Through this project, we want to empower women to gain confidence by receiving non-judgemental female-to-female advice and support, thereby enabling their careers to take off.”

Called ‘alta’, the project enables professional women to access an online platform to help them link up with a suitable female mentor. Based on their answers to online questions, the website’s algorithm then matches up the mentee with the most compatible mentor.

Volunteering mentors are also required to answer questions on the platform to determine whether they have the right skills and personality to oversee someone else’s career development. As well as helping women receive career guidance, alta is beneficial for the mentors, as it helps raise their profile in the profession.

After initial contact, both parties are free to arrange when, where and how often they meet, although they are advised to meet for one to two hours every six weeks.

Under the aegis of the Royal Aeronautical Society, alta is working with Airbus, the Royal Air Force and other partners across the aerospace industry. By signing up to alta and paying a small joining fee, companies can help their female professionals receive mentoring from across the industry – not just from someone in their company.

Such assistance can help women feel valued, to assist them in getting into leadership positions, and increase female retention in the industry. It might also help them gain confidence, receive assistance when they are returning to work after a maternity break, or reduce their suffering from ‘impostor syndrome,’ whereby they feel they don’t deserve to thrive in a male-dominated workplace.

“If we take the Royal Aeronautical Society, it has 25,000 members but just 1700 are women, while in the UK only four percent of pilots are women,” says Professor Durbin. “This puts a lot of pressure on women working in the industry.”

The mentoring project comes at a time when many young women who take STEM subjects are failing to enter the engineering workforce, given the gender stereotyping that can exist in the sector. Professional women engineers also often drop out of the industry or fail to return after maternity leave. This phenomenon is sometimes referred to as a “leaky pipeline,” a metaphor used to describe the continuous loss of women in STEM as they climb the career ladder.

Prior to alta’s launch in June 2018, the team organised focus groups, interviews and a survey to decide how the scheme could help professional women in the aerospace and aviation industry. After contacting 250 women, they discovered that existing mentoring was extremely limited in the industry and often did not include women as mentors. They also discovered that women were actively seeking female mentors in senior positions.

“You can’t be who you can’t see,” says Stella Warren, who is Research Associate in the Bristol Leadership and Change Centre and also works on the project. “If you don’t have a female mentor who is a leader in the industry, it is hard to aspire to reaching that same level.”

One mentee who has received mentoring through alta says it has really helped boost her self-belief.

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