A pioneering £6million University scheme aimed at getting hundreds of graduates into work and self-employment has been successfully extended until 2023.
As businesses in the North East prepare their post-Covid rebuilding programmes, there has never been a greater need to support them to recruit graduates.
Retaining talent within the area is also viewed as vital to the region’s pandemic recovery plan.
Since October 2018, the University of Sunderland’s Enterprise Place scheme has played a critical role in helping students and graduates achieve their dreams of starting a business.
Funded by ERDF, the scheme, operated from the University’s Hope Street Xchange building, offers business start-ups the chance to access funding, get free office space, along with a host of other benefits including workshops and networking opportunities.
Project Manager Laura Foster said: “We are delighted to be able to continue our support to regional SMEs and start-ups, particularly in these really difficult times for business.
“Our project helps SME’s in a really practical way with the cost of employing a graduate providing £4,500 towards their salary. With many businesses pausing recruitment plans when Covid hit, we hope that this funding will help them to get those plans back on track.
“We also want to help our students and graduates to create their own opportunities by starting their own businesses or freelance careers.
“Graduating in 2020 is potentially a challenging time and our programme of support will help them navigate the new Covid start-up landscape, as well as some seed funding to help get their ideas off the ground.
“The start-up rate in the North East has always been low compared to other regions and we want to continue to inspire and support our students and alumni to stay here, start up and be part of the Covid recovery story.”
The extension of the scheme will enable a further 100 graduates to find jobs; bringing the total number of placements to 230 across the scheme. While by the end of the project, in June 2023, the aim is to have supported 110 start-up businesses
North East based SME’s can receive £4,500 to subsidise the salary of a graduate they recruit, with 90% going on to be kept on longer term, or permanent, contracts.
To fit in with changing times, virtual support to students, graduates and businesses is now available online, including one-to-one advice, workshops, and networking opportunities.
Virtual delivery and engagement has been really successful so far and numbers of enquiries of people interested in starting up still good.
The Enterprise Place is also working with the Digital Incubator, offering virtual support for those looking to start a digital freelance career.