Aston appoints first ever ‘business engagement’ executive

Aston University has moved to strengthen its relationship with business by hiring its first ever Executive Director of Business Engagement.

Mark Smith was appointed to take strategic responsibility for all business engagement activities and to showcase the commercial benefits of working with Aston to business, professional and public sector organisations. This includes Aston’s business growth programmes, student placements, knowledge transfer partnerships (KTPs), and other initiatives.

He will also oversee the development of degree apprenticeship programmes, where students work and study over the course of their degree gaining the exact skills their employer needs. Aston has been a trailblazer for this growing trend in higher education, and was the first university in the UK to produce degree apprenticeship graduates.

Mark sees his overall mission as making Aston’s offer to businesses as clear as it is to students. He said:

“Engagement with industry is written into Aston’s DNA, and many of our staff work daily with commercial firms. The challenge is bringing those connections together, spotting new opportunities to collaborate and support business growth – for our clients and ourselves.”

“Universities are complicated organisations, and sometimes it isn’t easy for people to understand everything that we have to offer. My job is to make sure, from a business-to-business point of view, that our offer is absolutely clear.”

Mark joined Aston from Birmingham City University where he was Director of Enterprise and Employability. His career has involved working across government, regeneration and online education taking on big projects including establishing new airports and fostering enterprise in inner-city areas.

Mark added:

“Aston holds a special place in my heart: it was a school trip to a metallurgy lecture here that spurred my interest in studying at university – the first member of my family to do so. Aston is directly responsible for motivating me to get the education that led to my dynamic career, so it’s an honour to come and work here.”

Professor Alec Cameron, Vice-Chancellor of Aston University, said: “Our strong relationship with business is what sets us apart from other universities and allows us to secure such great employment outcomes for our graduates. This new position on our executive committee is a recognition of the value we place on our business partnerships, and we are very fortunate to have an experienced leader like Mark at the reigns. I have every confidence that his work will be valued by the university and the business community.”

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