LevelUp! - XpoNorth and University of the Highlands and Islands unveil unique programme for students

Students at the University of the Highlands and Islands with a desire to work in the creative industries will benefit from a range of opportunities to help them get their careers started thanks to the new LevelUp! initiative with XpoNorth.

XpoNorth, which helps grow the creative economy across the Highlands and Islands, has teamed up with the university’s careers and employability centre to give more than 1,000 students access to a unique free-to-use service.

LevelUp! is now open to applications from creative industries degree students. It offers the next wave of creatives across the region the opportunity to:

  • engage with key industry contacts, from producers to publishers and film makers to musicians
  • get to know ‘gatekeepers’ in the industry and learn how to commercialise their creativity
  • access high-quality mentoring from sector specialists
  • explore work experience and networking opportunities
  • tap into world-class recourses, such as podcasts, videos and other learning materials.

LevelUp! launches at a challenging time for all sectors and students, including creatives, who are looking to move from academia into work in a world impacted by Covid-19. The pandemic has affected creative businesses and presented new challenges, such as how to fill new skills gaps, that the new programme is helping to resolve.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) says that the creative sector is worth around £740 million to the region, accounting for more than 5,000 jobs.

Graduates of the University of the Highlands and Islands have gone on to great things in the creative industries locally and internationally, including 2019 University of the Highlands and Islands Alumnus of the Year, Anne Lundon, a Scottish media broadcaster who studied at Lews Castle College UHI.

LevelUp! is designed to give consistent and co-ordinated support to current students as they look to start their careers as creatives. This week students on the university’s BA (Hons) creative writing course will take part in the first LevelUp! initiative, a guest lecture series as part of their autumn writing residency programme. Students will connect with Doug Johnstone, author of 12 novels, most recently The Big Chill, who has previously been shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year; bestselling thriller writer, podcaster and entrepreneur Joanna Penn and Edinburgh-based literary agent Jenny Brown.

Alex Smith of XpoNorth said: “We’re excited to be strengthening our relationship with the innovative creative team at the University of the Highlands and Islands through the introduction of this exciting new partnership. LevelUp! will offer students a range of support to explore the diversity of pathways into a fulfilling career in the sector and looks at the skills and networks required to make this transition.

“The current environment continues to see the creative industries undergo significant changes, which may add a layer of uncertainty for many students as they start to think about their future. With that front and centre, LevelUp! offers a valuable interface between academia and commercial opportunities.”

Professor Crichton Lang, Principal and Vice-chancellor (interim) of the University of Highlands and Islands, said: “The University of the Highlands and Islands partnership is playing a vital role in supporting the recovery of our region following the Covid-19 pandemic. We are proud to have an exceptional relationship with XpoNorth, and this initiative displays how valuable the partnerships we have established are as we respond to the needs of employers, learners and communities as the nature of employment changes.”

Barry Nisbet, who is in his fourth year of the BA (Hons) applied music programme at the University of the Highlands and Islands, has already benefited from XpoNorth support. The Shetland-based student secured a work experience placement with Score Draw Music a creative music and sound company in Belfast, thanks to an introduction from XpoNorth. This type of support will be even more accessible to students now as a result of LevelUp!

Barry said: “The LevelUp! programme is going to provide so many opportunities for students, I can’t wait to get involved. My placement with Score Draw Music and OnMusic gave me an in-depth insight into the worlds of film scoring and music publishing, and has opened exciting new avenues for my career in music.

“This was a superb opportunity to gain mentoring, learning and to make lasting contacts in a very exciting field.”


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