Collaborative Partners: The University of the West of England and micro-businesses
Collaboration Type: Student/ Graduate internships
Cost: £21 to £25 per day
Summary: A collaboration between SMEs and the University of West England aimed at providing short term placements for students and graduates in SMEs and Micro Businesses in South West England. There have been over 800 placements for graduates in over 500 companies. The scheme provides each SME with a small subsidy for each intern it takes.
“Like most businesses when I started it was just me, effectively a micro-business, but from the start graduate interns have been the lifeblood of the company’s success,” says Janet Sawyer. Janet is the founder and owner of Littlepod a company based in East Devon. It started trading in May 2010 and sells high-quality vanilla and chocolate ingredients and innovative products for sale and distribution throughout the UK and overseas.
“From the start graduate interns have been the lifeblood of the company’s success” Janet Sawyer
Janet participated in the 2010 University of West of England (UWE) Graduate Internship Scheme, taking two graduates, Tom and Aisha, for a fixed period. Both graduates were paid a small salary and Janet received assistance in the form of a government grant. Tom worked closely with Janet to help build up the brand identity, while Aisha was sent to America to produce a report on potential suppliers.
“Traditionally, there is an impression that interns are for big companies. However, of the UK’s 4.2 million private sector businesses, 99.2 percent are classified as small businesses with less than 49 employees, and the vast majority of those are businesses with no-employees. The UWE scheme is specifically targeted at these micro and small businesses to encourage them to build capacity and to open their doors to recent graduates,” explains Maggie Westgarth, Head of Employability and Enterprise.
The University places both graduate and undergraduate interns with businesses in the South West. The University sources businesses to take part, and advertises internship vacancies to students while the businesses run the recruitment process. The internships run for a minimum of eight weeks, and UWE subsidises the cost of each intern, up to £1,000, with employers providing matched funding. This approach means that students can afford to participate in the placement scheme and it enables small employers to participate who otherwise might be discouraged by the cost. So far UWE has offered more than 800 graduate interns within 500 companies in the South West.
“We needed specific technical skills yet the two most important requirements were enthusiasm and fresh ideas” Dan Molloy
Another small business that has benefitted from having a UWE’s intern is Colston Consulting, a service-based recruitment consultancy, based in Bristol.
“We had a requirement for someone to “breath life” into our social media platform which forms a large part of our marketing strategy. We needed specific technical skills yet the two most important requirements were enthusiasm and fresh ideas,” explains Dan Molloy.
Colston Consulting took on a UWE intern, Nick, as digital marketing assistant. He had a specific brief to increase social media traffic, expand the audience and create content. Nick set about formulating a plan he could deliver against for the duration of the internship. Over the course of the internship he increased the traffic tenfold and has laid down a foundation to build on for the future.
Dan adds: “It is important that Interns are given specific tasks that can be completed in the timescale allowed, and that the projects they work on are relevant to their future careers. It was important for us to be able to measure the success of the project and through setting clear objectives and checking our progress we were able to do this and Nick was motivated.”
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