Groundwork West Midlands’ Graduate Apprenticeship Programme (GAP)


West Midlands Graduate Apprenticeship Programme (GAP)


Groundwork West Midlands


The Black Country has a low level of graduate retention compared to the UK as a whole. There are not enough opportunities made available to graduates when leaving universities in the region. In addition not enough is done to promote the Black Country as a place to start a career and to address the general negative publicity about the area.

West Midlands Graduate Apprenticeship Programme (GAP) is providing work experience to graduates interested in a career in environmental regeneration and sustainability.

Groundwork’s vision: ‘Communities which are vibrant, healthy & safe, which value the local and global environment and where individuals and enterprise prosper.’

The challenges

Progress so far has been achieved with very limited funding and resources. For the scheme to grow, develop and provide a more effective platform for future leaders to gain experience and skills for employment, it needs core funding to cover co-ordination, running costs, training and resources. With more funding the scheme could build upon the work already achieved, and the partnerships created, to become one of the leading graduate programmes in the region.

  • Unemployment in the Black Country is significantly higher than the UK average
  • 41% of the working age population in the Black Country has no, or modest, qualifications compared to the national average of 30%
  • Positions requiring higher level qualifications and skills are harder to fill in the Black Country than those for plant and machine operatives
  • In the last quarter, unemployment in England rose by 0.8%, whereas in the West Midlands, it rose by 1.6%
  • There is a growing awareness that while national initiatives will help address environmental concerns real impact is not going to happen until change is brought about at a personal, family and community level.

The solutions

A specialist six-month placement scheme aimed at breaking the ‘no experience – no job’ cycle is continuing to succeed in finding employment for young people, despite the challenging economic conditions ravaging the UK labour market.

The Graduate Apprentices receive a two week work plan prior to joining to assess their training needs requirements, leading to a professional development plan.  Volunteers typically stay on the programme for six months.

GAP can provide professional voluntary work experience for unemployed graduates in the Black Country.¬† Structured placements to complement each graduate’s career aspirations and goals suited to their academic background.

Helping graduates to:

  • Gain real project management skills.
  • Develop leadership and team building skills.
  • Building an understanding of the roles of the public, voluntary and private sectors in the field of environmental regeneration.

Completing the placement results in experience of working at a local level with communities, schools, businesses and other organisations and groups.

Research and development options are available across the different themes: Land, Education, Community, Youth, Employment and Training, Environmental Business Services and Operations.

The results

Groundwork Black Country has been running this programme for nearly two years, which has successfully seen 97 graduates come through the scheme. There has been an 82% success rate into employment which shows how effective the programme can be. There are currently have another 18 people taking part on the scheme who are involved in a wide number of projects and gaining skills to help them get interviews and employment.

Here is a sample list of the various organisations and positions graduates have moved onto following a placement with GWBC:

  • Water Research Council Graduate Scheme
  • Carbon Footprint Consultancy
  • Black Country Housing Association – Advisor
  • Microsoft Gateway with the Black Country Consortium – Graduate Researcher
  • Hestia Services – Energy Advisor, Energy Consultant, Travel Advisor, Marketing
  • Groundwork – Community Officer, Training Officer, Education Officer, Employment Co-ordinator
  • Environmental Agency – Administration Officer
  • SusTrans – Information Officer, School Travel
  • Bureau Veritas – Associate Consultant
  • DWP
  • Sandwell MBC

Participating graduates have gained:

  • Confidence and experience to move into the environmental/regeneration sectors
  • Skills and training to back up applications and interviews
  • Improved access to job opportunities
  • Experience working with experienced members of staff
  • Improved¬†employability

Groundwork’s Graduate Apprenticeship Programme won an achievement award for training provider of the year from Sandwell Council.

Learning points

  • Involve staff through each stage of the process
  • Ensure the programme is mutually beneficial for volunteers and the organisation
  • Importance of partnership working
  • Keep the scheme flexible
  • Every GAP has different needs
  • Programme requires long term funding

SWM comment

We think that the Black Country Graduate Apprenticeship Programme is playing a vital role in helping graduates to gain employment in the current economic climate and are improving the sustainability of the community by keeping graduates working in the Black Country.


For more information please email