ADVERTORIAL: See how your company can hire top STEM graduates with this funding

Due to the current economic climate, getting young people into employment has now become more important than ever.

Unemployment rates across the UK are rising, and many small and independently-run business across the region are struggling to stay afloat due to skills shortages in their workforce.

As a result, The University of Plymouth, in collaboration with the European Regional Development Fund, is working towards leading the STEM Graduates into Business Project.

The project will help to promote business investment in research and innovation so that companies can attract, train and retain new talent.

The fund is providing an incentive grant to cover up to 50% of the graduates’ wages – up to £200 a week or £2,400 over three months.

This aims to overcome some of the challenges that companies face when recruiting, such as being able to offer training opportunities and travel incentives for employees due to the business’s location.

The fund will not only help businesses who have been struggling to balance their books due to Covid-19 but also help to strengthen the local economy and help graduates to consider Devon as a place to work with future career opportunities.

BusinessLive spoke to it project manager Rhys Barnes-Smith about the benefits this can bring to local businesses in Devon and Plymouth. See his responses below.

STEM Graduates into Business project manager Rhys Barnes-Smith

What are the benefits to businesses using the fund at this time?

The University of Plymouth has been working to ensure the STEM Graduates into Business project provides flexibility to businesses facing changing market demands.

As a temporary fund, the scheme not only provides SMEs with financial aid but the ability to make short-term adaptations due to the current pandemic.

These local businesses may be directly supporting the COVID relief efforts, have had to adapt their production lines, or simply need to get back to a fully operational service quickly and in this process have identified skills gaps.

The support offered by the project as a whole remains and businesses can access an experienced team dedicated to aiding the recruitment process so the best quality applicants are received.

Included in this is a job advertisement on a national jobs board, the collation of applications and guidance on shortlisting if required.

By engaging with this project, businesses can also utilise the extensive channels and networks of the University, including opening up further opportunities to raise their visibility to graduates and demonstrating the advantages of employment in an SME.

Portrait of young businesswoman with white helmet looking up and seen from the industrial steel cable reel for crane in factory warehouse. She is testing and working with winding wire and cable drum accessories metal wire spool reel wear resistance.

How is this different from using a traditional recruitment service?

We don’t charge a recruitment fee.

With no upfront costs to the business that require the service, we hope it will make recruiting a graduate easier for businesses, especially when they’re under a lot of pressure in these current circumstances.

It is hoped that the mutual benefits will help to form a cohort of graduate-employing SMEs in the region, retaining more talent in Devon, developing a highly-skilled workforce, and growing the local economy.

Does recruiting during a health pandemic work?

Although recruiting during the current circumstances is not ideal, it can still prove fruitful results for businesses and graduates alike.

For example, Vualto – a Plymouth-based expert in cloud-based video delivery, has recently reported recruiting a Graduate Developer just as the UK went into lockdown.

However, this has not hindered them in being able to induct their new employee, Kristien, into the company. They are already seeing the positive outcomes of this, with Kristien being a great contributor to the team and business.

So not only does it work, it works well.

What if businesses aren’t in a position to recruit right now?

It is hard for businesses in Plymouth and Devon right now, there is no getting away from that.

Recruiting may not be possible for all of them at this moment, but this doesn’t mean they have no hope of doing so in the future.

Since the STEM Graduates into Business Project sits with the careers service at the University of Plymouth, it can access a wealth of knowledge, information and guidance to support businesses through this time.

The project can stay in contact with businesses and keep them up-to-date with the graduate market, so when the time is right, they can quickly access potential future recruits.

Why is STEM Graduates into Business important?

The STEM Graduates into Business Project provides a link between recent graduates and local SMEs, with the ambition to bring fresh and innovative ideas to a business to enable growth.

It is a known fact that 65% of students and graduates stay in the South West region (Gradsouthwest.com), and by supporting businesses based in Plymouth and Devon with their recruitment, the project hopes to retain this talent in the county.

We also know that STEM graduates raise business productivity and increase businesses propensity to export.

Why is it particularly focused on SMEs in Plymouth and Devon?

Roughly 98% of businesses in the Heart of the South West region employ less than 50 people (Heart of the South West LEP research).

Moreover, the lack of skills, particularly in STEM-related roles, have been highlighted as a key barrier to productivity – with some SMEs in Plymouth and Devon being unable to easily find and acquire the necessary talent to drive growth.

Due to the nature and size of SMEs in Plymouth and Devon, many do not have the resource or capacity to consider recruiting a graduate and the project can be a good starting point for businesses wanting to access graduate talent.

What are the challenges Plymouth and Devon businesses face when recruiting graduates?

Many of the businesses who have engaged with the project have not previously recruited a graduate, as research has found they are often unsure of the skills and knowledge they are looking for.

These businesses, particularly SMEs, often feel they are competing with larger corporate organisations and are unsure of how to link into the University and its students to raise awareness of the graduate opportunities on their doorstep.

The STEM Graduates into Business Project hopes to bridge this gap in communication between local SMEs and new graduates, helping employment rates in the region rise and offering new opportunities for professional progression.

To find out more about the STEM Graduates into Business Project, visit the Plymouth University website here.

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