For many SMEs looking to recruit, employing a graduate is not at the forefront of their minds. Similarly, SMEs are not always immediately considered by students and graduates. This may be because neither knows enough about the other, understands how to engage or fully appreciates the great benefits or the opportunities that can develop.
Whatever the causes, Northumbria University is striving to remove these perceived barriers and challenges through the Graduate Internship strand of its new project, Northumbria Enterprise and Business Support (NEBS).
Funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) the project is focused specifically on small and medium-sized enterprises in Tyne and Wear and Northumberland to help 130 individual businesses find their next generation of talent. And it can contribute £3825 towards the salary costs, too (minimum salary £17,000 pa pro rata).
It is often interesting hearing SMEs and graduates speak. Many often want to engage with the other but simply don’t know where to begin. The NEBS project is a straightforward process for the SME and the graduate to engage with. One of the best aspects of the project is that while a Northumbria graduate will have excellent employability skills and knowledge through their studies, our funding helps us maximise the chances of finding the right person because graduates from other universities can also apply for the internship vacancies.
Graduates come from a huge range of subjects, and have great skills, knowledge and experience from their courses. In addition, they usually have practical, relevant and/or transferable work experience from their ‘student jobs’ as well as many other outside activities students become involved with.
One of the attractive aspects of employing a new graduate is that the SME can shape their new employee, building upon the skills and the new ideas graduates can contribute.
The funding provided by NEBS towards the salary costs of the graduate can significantly reduce the recruitment and financial risks and enables both the SME and the graduate intern to develop a positive and productive relationship. For some, they see it as a six-month trial before deciding whether to develop a longer-term employment contract.
Northumbria University supported 70 graduate Internships during its previous project between 2013-2015 and the results were impressive:
* 71 per cent of SMEs reported an increase in turnover (up to £200,000) as a direct result of employing a graduate intern.
* 75 per cent of the graduates were offered full-time permanent positions by their employing SME at the end of the internship.
One example is The Skill Mill, a Newcastle-based social enterprise for getting young people into watercourse and horticulture services, which employed Charlotte Thorpe (pictured) as a graduate intern. After successfully completing her internship in February 2015, Charlotte accepted a full-time position with the SME and continues to flourish today. David Parks, director at The Skill Mill, comments: “Charlotte has had an enormous impact throughout her internship, and indeed beyond it. Trade has increased with new projects, where she took the lead. Charlotte has also developed a range of systems which ensure we can tender for large framework contracts.”
Just one success story among many, and many more to come.