Businesses in Dorset could take a leaf out of AFC Bournemouth’s book and draw upon the skills of Bournemouth University’s students and academics.
More than 70 businessmen and women heard how BU provides the Premier League club with expertise across a range of disciplines.
That included a testing time 11 years ago when the Cherries could barely pay staff before a series of promotions to top-flight football, with BU’s students proudly mucking in.
The March breakfast networking event by AFC Business, which has 2,000 members and is the club’s free-to-join business club, was held at BU’s Fusion Building on Talbot Campus.
BU has been the club’s official higher education partner since 2013, with AFC Bournemouth’s commercial director Rob Mitchell, a BU graduate, forging links back in 2008 when he arrived at the Cherries.
He told the audience: “One of the first partnerships I wanted to forge was with the university because of the resources here, the students, the academics – the support that the university could give would be boundless.”
BU has provided the Cherries since 2008 with skills across various disciplines, including sports science, marketing, research, coaching, physiotherapy and media, as well as helping out on matchdays.
A number of students have gone on to work full-time at AFC Bournemouth, Rob said. “It has been a bit of a career path for them.”
There are also player appearances at BU, with guest talks, special topics and links with equality and diversity and mental health and wellbeing.
BU is also supports AFC Bournemouth’s girls’ football programme as part of the club’s drive to promote and increase female participation in the game.
Attendees heard how the football club and university teamed up on a coaching programme for 180 Chinese students, over three years, as part of China’s bid to be an international force in soccer by 2050.
Jim Andrews, BU’s chief operating officer, said that engagement between business and the university, which has 20,000 students and contributes £1 million a day to the regional economy, is essential if talent is to be kept within the region.
He said: “Something that makes BU distinct is the number of students we have on placement at any one time. We are one of the only institutions to offer a work placement for every undergraduate course.
“The reason we do that is because work placement means better employment outcomes.
“It is really important to us that we work with local companies, national companies and international companies to provide those opportunities for our students to get real-life practical experiences because that is what you, as companies, are looking for.”
The event also heard an update on the regional and national economy from Professor Jim Roach and from Ian Jones, head of regional community partnerships at BU.
After the event Rob said: “This was another informative breakfast event for decision-makers and entrepreneurs, with us showing how businesses in Dorset can successfully follow the Cherries’ example by drawing upon the considerable skills and expertise of BU’s students and academics across a range of disciplines.”
For further information about the business club please email Aysia Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org
Official partners of AFC Business are Bournemouth Chamber of Trade & Commerce, Dorset Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Dorset Mental Health Forum, Hill Osborne and Strategic Solutions.
Dates for your diary
The next business club event, the spring BBQ, takes place on 11th April at Vitality Stadium, followed by a networking breakfast at the same venue on 8th May.
Thanking the business partners of AFC Business, Rob paid tribute to the late Bill Riddle, the vice president and chairman of Bournemouth Chamber of Trade & Commerce and a highly respected figure in the town’s business community.
Rob said: “Bill was a fantastic supporter of the football club and business club. He was an avid Sunderland supporter but I know that AFC Bournemouth was very close to his heart as well.
“On behalf of the football club I want to send our sincere condolences and thoughts and prayers to Bill’s family, friends and everyone that was associated with Bill as well.”