• Sun. Apr 14th, 2024

North East Connected

Hopping Across The North East From Hub To Hub


“Our project helps SMEs in a really practical way”

Companies looking to recruit fresh talent can access a graduate internship scheme which has now benefited almost 600 of the region’s employers, delivering nearly £2.4 million in funding to those businesses over the last 10 years.

Launched in 2011, the University of Sunderland received European Regional Development Funding (ERDF) to run its Graduate Internship Scheme, which has since provided over 650 graduates the opportunity to work in a variety of small-to-medium private sector organisations across the north-east.

Any employers who want to join the businesses who have already benefitted from the programme, can get their applications in by early July to apply for this year’s round of funding. (www.sunderland.ac.uk/recruit-talent)

A key driver of the Internships project is to fuel regional economic growth by supporting SMEs to recruit a Graduate Intern.

Project Manager Laura Foster said: “It’s been a well-documented difficult and uncertain time for businesses over the last couple of years and our project helps SMEs in a really practical way with providing help towards graduate’s salary costs.

“Graduates typically bring fresh ideas into those organisations, as well as a new perspective, and often help to deliver a new product, process or service for the business.”

Laura added: “We have many talented graduates from our north-east universities and we would urge any business looking to recruit in the coming months to consider our Graduate Internship scheme.”

At the start of 2021, SMEs accounted for three fifths of the employment market, and around half of turnover, in the UK private sector. The sector plays a key part in the opportunity for progression and retaining graduate talent in the region.

Since the start of this current round of funding in October 2018, a total of £633,295 in supportive ERDF has been awarded to north-east based SMEs, with each receiving up to £4,500 towards the salary of the graduate they employed.

By this summer the Internship scheme will have placed more than 200 graduates into full-time roles within growing SMEs, earning an average salary of £20k. After 12 months, employers can decide whether to extend the Intern’s contract. Most graduates have now been offered full-time employment on completion of their internship.

One of those success stories coming out of the project is Metaltech Services Limited, a UKAS Accredited Metallurgical, Chemical Analysis and Mechanical Test House, based in Gateshead.

To support growth plans in the business, the company recruited two University of Sunderland engineering graduates, Arran Ledger and Marc Erwin as Test Engineers.

Both graduates have brought an enthusiastic approach to the work which has had a positive impact on the business.

Metaltech Managing Director, Louise Scott, spoke about the experience of recruiting via the Graduate Internship scheme. She said: “Aside from the obvious benefits of receiving funding toward the salary costs, the support with the actual recruitment process has been brilliant. The team at Sunderland responded really quickly to the initial enquiry and have been supportive throughout- making it really easy to work with them to find the right graduate.”

The opportunity has been equally rewarding for Arran, who completed his Mechanical Engineering degree and graduated last year with first-class honors. After graduating he was looking for something where he could challenge himself and learn the practical skills needed to thrive in a career in engineering.

Arran said: “Metaltech looked like a company dedicated to developing into new areas and I thought I could learn from their experience and expertise. I felt the most challenging thing, like any new job, would be getting used to the ways things are done in industry.”

Arran felt his degree has given him skills and knowledge that he can apply in this real-world setting.

“The material theory I studied plays a massive role into some of the technical aspects of test work I am doing at Metaltech. Through my degree we learned to drive various computer aided engineering software which has also been helpful in various research and development projects I am currently involved in.”

Marc Erwin also graduated with a First-Class Mechanical Engineering degree in 2021. He started his Internship as Test Engineer at Metaltech in September 2021. His role involves a range of metal testing to fulfil customer requirements, as well as working to expand the company’s testing capabilities into different materials.

Marc says he has settled well into the role, adding: “There is a lot of variation within the job, so you get to do a range of work throughout the week – it never gets repetitive. The work presents a good challenge as you have to apply your engineering knowledge and a bit of common sense on how best to tackle a job. Everyone at the company is fantastic to work with and are always willing to help in any way possible.”

Successful SMEs joining the scheme, gain access to the University’s recruitment specialists who can provide support with; writing of job adverts, advertisement of roles across various channels, shortlisting of candidates and scheduling of interviews, and can even provide support on interview panels if required. The team actively engages candidates; identifying specific skills, competencies, and talent to complement business goals.

For initial enquires into accessing Graduate Internship funding contact Donna Bainbridge, Internship Development Co-Ordinator on 07976 199512 or email: Donna.Bainbridge@sunderland.ac.uk.