Meet the remarkable graduates helping to build a greater Manchester

This year, over 17,000 students will graduate from The University of Manchester, many of which are already making contributions to our city, through healthcare, education and protecting the natural environment.

This article is an edited version that originally appeared on the Manchester Evening News.

The University of Manchester strives for brilliance, supporting its students as they navigate the necessary pathways towards the careers of their dreams - but it doesn't end there.

Since the University's foundations, delivering civic impact has been at the heart of its values, with 45% of graduates remaining and working within the north-west, contributing to our public services and helping communities to thrive.

The University is one of the region's largest employers and investors, educating and training thousands of local people in key professions while supporting local government, businesses, schools, hospitals, charities and cultural venues.

The teachers who inspire our children, the doctors and nurses who care for us at our most vulnerable, and the environmentalists who strive to preserve and enrich our world – countless numbers of these remarkable people have started their professional journey with us.

For the 40,000 students, and the 12,000 staff members who dedicate their time to shaping the minds of the future, the University is about something much bigger than just a place of learning. It's about improving lives.

In the wake of the pandemic, the University is more devoted than ever to building a greater Manchester for everyone.

“I'm now living my dream job and helping people with mental health struggles on a daily basis.”

Bridging the healthcare shortfall

During the COVID-19 pandemic, NHS staff have been under enormous pressure, and there has been a national shortage of many key professionals, which has only exacerbated the strain on our region's NHS and care services.

A big concern for many throughout the pandemic has been the impact on mental health, and how so many people have suffered as a result of health anxiety, isolation and fear.

As key providers of medical, health and social care training, The University of Manchester has been well equipped to fill this shortfall, with many talented, highly-skilled students and staff ready to step onto the front lines and help those in need.

More than 3,000 of the University's students graduate in healthcare-related programmes each year, with 2,616 graduates, that the University is in touch with, currently working across the region's hospitals and NHS trusts.

Providing mental health support

For Hannah Osborne, who has aspired to work within a healthcare setting all her life, providing mental health support for her patients during the pandemic has been an inspiring, rewarding and life-changing experience.

Hannah, aged 28, said: "Since I was young, mental health issues have run in my family. My cousin went into a mental health unit, so I've grown up knowing about mental health and how important it is for people to receive the help they need. It really inspired me to want to help other people.

"When I was 18, I went to study mental health nursing but experienced my own struggles with mental health, so I had to leave. I finally qualified last year, and I couldn't be happier that I chose to study at The University of Manchester. The course was fantastic, and I was so fortunate to have a brilliant Academic Advisor who was incredibly supportive.

"The courses aren't just about sitting in a classroom. The whole experience has been so immersive because the University is passionate about contributing to a healthier, happier, better community. For example, we were put through a simulation that mimics what it's like for mental health patients to hear voices - so it's not just about doing the job, but living the job. The University was so amazing at ensuring we had real experiences to apply to our future careers.

"I'm incredibly interested in the homeless side of mental health, so the University identified different charities I could spend time with and work with to really understand. This is just one example of how the University goes above and beyond and how it has an incredible, positive impact on the region. The University integrates with society in so many ways and breaks down so many barriers.

"As a result of this incredible experience, I'm now living my dream job and helping people with mental health struggles on a daily basis. Until recently, I worked on an intensive care unit in which the patients were incredibly poorly but prone to violent outbursts or were considered a risk to themselves.

"Because it was such a small ward, it allowed me to really bond with each patient, figure out what might be a stress factor for them and become a go-between to ensure they get the help and support they need. Now, I work within the community as a care coordinator for the Early Intervention Team in Salford, working with people from all walks of life to identify all their care needs and the trigger points that can cause those issues with their mental health.

"Then, I identify the ways we can hopefully work with them to improve their lives. It's the most rewarding job in the world, and I love what I do. People's lives are so isolated, especially during the pandemic, so it's nice to build relationships and show these people that you're never going to give up on them.

"There's nothing more rewarding than that, and I simply couldn't provide this service to people living in our region without the support of The University of Manchester."

Manchester Mental Health Nursing graduate, Hannah Osbourne.

Hannah said The University of Manchester has helped her provide mental health support to people living in Greater Manchester.

“Education had such a positive impact on me, so I want to inspire my students and support them in the same way, so it is a positive experience for them, too.”

Inspiring the next generation

Although the impact of COVID-19 on our NHS has been palpable, healthcare was not the only sector to suffer as a result of the pandemic; it has also had a dramatic impact on education, with schools and nurseries closing and online learning struggling to measure up.

The extent of the consequences are yet to be fully understood but it is apparent that the pandemic has contributed to the widening of existing social inequalities - something the University has worked hard to combat, training 550 teachers every year, with thousands of graduate teachers currently working in local primary and secondary schools.

Using education to break stereotypes

Hannah Ruddock, a teaching graduate, was inspired to pursue a career in education when the support of her teacher at a devastating time in her life made school bearable. She hopes to teach the next generation that you can be whoever and whatever you dream of becoming, regardless of your background.

Hannah, aged 22, who will begin her journey as a history teacher at St Anthony's school in Urmston this September, said: "When I was in school, my mum was diagnosed with cancer, and it was devastating. My history teacher was so supportive both in and outside of the classroom and helped me in ways I could not possibly measure.

"The faith he had in me, and the way he supported me so determinedly, has driven me to want to provide that same support to the future generation of our region. I grew up in Wythenshawe, and whenever you tell somebody you are from there, there is a really strong stereotype that carries so many negative connotations. It shouldn't be happening in this day and age, and it concerns me that as a consequence of the pandemic, this social gap could expand.

"My role proves that it doesn't matter what your background is or where you've come from. If you want to do something and you put your mind to it, you can absolutely do it. The support is there, so it all comes down to your mindset and breaking those stereotypes. I want to show the children I teach that I was exactly where they are now, and I had the same start in life, and just like I have, they too can make their lives what they want them to be.

"Education had such a positive impact on me, so I want to inspire my students and support them in the same way so that education is a positive experience for them too. The University of Manchester has taught me to believe in myself, to have more confidence. Without them, I wouldn't be walking into my dream job. I can't wait to be a part of the school and make a difference in the lives of the students I will be teaching."

Manchester Teaching graduate, Hannah Ruddock.

Hannah wants to inspire young people in the region to create the life they want for themselves.

“We ensure the people of Manchester have access to safe, clean drinking water and preserve natural wildlife and ecosystems in the process.”

Protecting the natural environment

While The University of Manchester has made phenomenal contributions to healthcare and education throughout the pandemic, its efforts do not stop there.

Earlier this year, the University topped the table of more than 1,200 universities globally on action taken towards the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The 17 SDGs are the world's call to action on the most pressing challenges and opportunities facing humanity and the natural world - and as many of these issues are at the heart of its core values, it's no surprise the University ranked number one.

Striving for a healthier, greener Manchester

For Connor Corcoran, aged 25, SDG number six - clean water and sanitation - is at the heart of everything he does, and his remarkable career began with The University of Manchester.

Connor said: "I studied at The University of Manchester, and they provided lots of different course units throughout my mechanical engineering course. Some of these were focused on a more environmental approach, which really intrigued me, particularly discussing themes such as renewable energy and green ways of working.

"For me, it has always been important to have that kind of positive environmental impact. I love Manchester, and I think there's so much good being done here. In my current role, I work alongside United Utilities.

"They are given a set of guidelines by the Environmental Agency, such as what they need to be discharging from their wastewater treatment sites. We will then be tasked with improving the treatment sites to ensure they're discharging this really clean water in the interests of preserving wildlife and maintaining a clean, sustainable environment.

"Wastewater treatment sites are usually quite rural and often based out in the sticks, meaning they naturally attract a lot of wildlife. We've had one occasion where a badger got trapped inside a large tank, and he had to be rescued, which was quite cute. We've also had colleagues rescuing little ducklings with fishing nets. These stories serve to prove that we're constantly working with nature and reminds us of the importance of preserving their natural environment.

"We carry out a lot of environmental impact surveys which go on in the background. My specific role is to design machinery to ensure it operates safely and does the job, which feeds the process to ensure we're supplying the homes of Greater Manchester with clean water.

"Although a lot of the work we do goes on in the background, and people aren't always aware of what we do, it's vital work that impacts everybody, every day. We ensure the people of Manchester have access to safe, clean drinking water and we ensure we're preserving natural wildlife and ecosystems in the process.

"Throughout the pandemic, there has been an increase in people going for long outdoor walks, so it's important for our work to continue so that people can continue to enjoy the natural environment.

"If our work stopped, there'd be so many watercourses without a hint of wildlife. There would be rivers without fish, which would be devastating. We all need wildlife and the natural world around us to thrive. I'm so glad that my studies at The University of Manchester have led me to where I am now, and I am very happy to be contributing towards a healthy, green environment."

Manchester Mechanical Engineering graduate, Connor Corcoran.

Working towards a healthy, green environment is vital work, says Connor.

This article was written ahead of three separate projects set to be launched by The University of Manchester in collaboration with Manchester Evening News in the coming months.

These three projects will delve further into education, healthcare and the environment to investigate the many ways in which The University of Manchester contributes to each sector and how their incredible work is helping to build a greater Manchester for everyone.

Learn more about social responsibility at The University of Manchester.

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