The benefits of using graduate interns – a case study
Back in our October e-newsletter, we published an article on “Working with graduates to grow your business.” Since then a number of new Midlands initiatives have been created to offer free recruitment services and bursaries aiming to support 1200 graduate placements for business in the West Midlands.
Here we look at how two graduate interns are working on ICT Cluster projects and share the experience both from our perspective and theirs. We are also including details on other regional initiatives that help employers benefit from using new graduates to grow their companies.
Our graduate interns, David Morgan, who has an MSc in Computer Science and Luke Pearson, who has a BSc (Hons) in Information Technology, were recruited through West Midlands Graduate Internships (WMGI), a scheme set up in partnership with Advantage West Midlands and Graduate Advantage to help tackle the effect of the economic downturn on the region for both employers and graduates.
The graduates are managed by Matthew Smith, an IT Futures consultant at the University of Wolverhampton. He reasons: “The one thing that an academic degree does not always provide is exposure to ICT in the workplace, which is where we felt the graduates could benefit.”
The recruitment process was the same as for a full–time job; an application form and CV, an initial telephone chat for short-listed candidates followed by a face to face interview lasting 1.5 hours.
Half way through their six-month placement the graduates are proving their value. Matthew explains: “Before the Internship started I feared that I would have to spend hours training the graduates. However I found they were quick to pick up new tasks and very willing to learn.”
“Firstly, the graduates obviously help with the workload, but additionally they bring a new perspective and ideas for changes and enhancements to tasks; their opinions are valid and their suggestions can improve the overall quality of work produced,” enthuses Matthew.
Both David and Luke have found the current job market for graduates challenging. The main issue being that most jobs require prior experience or specialist knowledge making it difficult to stand out from the other applicants.
The interns work as part of a team that maintains and develops the AWMist web application. Their role comprises IT work and contacting local SMEs and public sector support organisations to encourage active engagement with AWMist. David explains, “I’m currently developing a new booking facility for the system. This opportunity has allowed me to put into practice the Systems Analysis techniques I learnt at University.”
In addition to the day to day work, the role has exposed the interns to other opportunities:
David says “I was offered further training to help me with my duties so I now have experience of using the Joomla Content Management System and I’ve leant more about the IT industry as I recently attended an RFID conference.”
Luke continues: “The most valuable lesson I’ve learnt is to prioritise your work and be realistic about timescales as the nature of IT means that tasks can often take longer than expected.”
David says;” In addition to the new skills I’ve developed and experiences I’ve had, I’ve found potential employers have responded favourably when they learn I’m undertaking an internship programme.”
In this current climate it seems that internships provide a valuable role in the workplace; helping employers fulfil a specific task and enabling graduates to obtain much needed practical experience to get a foothold on the career ladder.
Funding for graduate employment
Funding is available until September 2010 to West Midlands SMEs for graduate placements, to help businesses get the best from a graduate intern and prepare for the upturn. Support includes a free recruitment service to ‘match’ your business with the right graduate, a bursary to help pay the wages of the graduate, and induction training support.
Graduate Bursaries “experience works” – is a scheme run by Graduate Advantage, in collaboration with Birmingham City University, Wolverhampton University, Aston University, Staffordshire University, University College Birmingham and Newman College
This option has 700 bursaries available. Businesses can receive an £800 bursary as a contribution to a graduate wage of £250 per week for a placement lasting 4 weeks. Options to extend the placement up to 12 months are also available. With a range of graduates and post-graduates looking for work across the West Midlands this is an excellent opportunity to add skills and resources to your business.
For further details contact: Clara Wilcox on 0121 204 4767 or visit www.graduateadvantage.co.uk
Project FIT (Future Industry Training programme) – Keele University
This option has 150 bursaries available and focuses on businesses from 5 main industry areas: Digital Industry, Professional and Financial Services, Ceramics, Medical Technologies, and those businesses thinking about how the Ageing Society will affect their business. The cost to a business is £280 for a 6-week project, with the bursary provided making up the rest of the graduate’s wage, that's just £47 per week.
For further details contact Lucy Challinor on 01782 733587 or email
University of Coventry
This option has 170 bursaries available, placements last between 1 and 3 months and employers are encouraged to contribute towards the cost of the placement. The graduate will be supported by a Careers Adviser who will provide advice and guidance, career planning and CV development.
For further details contact Norman Day 024 76152094 or email
For information on placement schemes from Worcester University, University of Birmingham and University of Warwick contact Helen Carvell on 0121 024 5095 or email
For further information about graduate schemes in the region see http://www.wmskillspartnership.com/our-work/graduate_initiatives.aspx