Dora Damian graduated from Sheffield Hallam in 2014, and took up a placement as an intern with Tinder Foundation, a Sheffield-based social enterprise.

In partnership with Sheffield Hallam University

When you hear about graduate recruitment schemes, you'd be forgiven for thinking about the massive corporate recruitment drives of global law firms and banks. And whilst that route works for some, a new Sheffield-based scheme aimed at helping small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to recruit the next generation of talent is yielding great results.

The RISE:Sheffield scheme is a partnership between the city's two universities, Sheffield City Council, Institute of Directors, Junior Chamber International UK, Yorkshire Graduates and a number of private sector organisations. It is run on behalf of the partners by Gradcore and Gradconsult.

It follows a similar model to a corporate graduate recruitment scheme, but is aimed specifically at helping smaller local companies to recruit graduates into paid placement roles.

Graduates have taken on placement roles at manufacturing firms, charities, IT companies, accountants and other businesses. Many have been taken on into full time professional and managerial roles after their placements have ended, with 130 graduates now in employment after taking up RISE internships.

"The RISE: Sheffield scheme has begun to transform the graduate market in Sheffield, creating a thriving city-wide community of engagement between graduates and growth SMEs," says Conor Moss, director of education and employer partnerships at Sheffield Hallam University.

"RISE demonstrates the successes that can be achieved when academia and industry collaborate and innovate to help businesses find the best talent. SMEs often find it difficult to attract high calibre graduates, and RISE provides a perfect opportunity to promote SMEs as an attractive graduate destination."

Photography graduate Dora Damian (pictured above), is just one of the many success stories from RISE. She graduated from Sheffield Hallam in 2014, and took up a placement as an intern with Tinder Foundation, a Sheffield-based social enterprise that aims to increase digital literacy through a network of community partners and working with national organisations.

"It's a great scheme. I found the role online, and when I got the job I had a business induction with Gradconsult where I met other interns.

"My role is based in the Network team. I've worked on several projects across the business, supporting the research team with their insight pieces, finding ways to help libraries raise their profile in communities, and collaborating with the events management team. It's been really valuable."

Dora's three month internship was extended to six months, and although the company encouraged her to apply for a permanent role which became available, she is committed to starting her own photography business.

"The skills I've learned during the internship will be really useful for my new business. I've managed projects and developed good working relationships with clients - this is very relevant in the context of freelancing. I also did a self-employment course when I was studying at Sheffield Hallam and this was helpful in enabling me to understand what it takes to get your own business off the ground."

A recent independent study into the first 50 RISE internships found the programme supports business growth as well as graduate employment in Sheffield.  The first 50 placements generated an economic impact of £1.34m GVA (Gross Value Added) for the city economy.

The scheme also boasts an intern-to-permanent-position conversion rate of 85 per cent, outperforming many other graduate initiatives.

In the study, the majority of SMEs stated they would either not have employed a graduate in the absence of RISE or would have been unable to find the quality of graduate placed by the scheme at this time.

RISE is also making a contribution to helping the region retain its brightest sparks, as Yorkshire is the only region outside of London to buck the brain drain trend of losing graduates to other areas of the UK. Whilst many graduates do choose to move to London to further their career, Yorkshire is a net importer, with 1.2 per cent more graduates working in the region than originally lived there. By contrast, the East Midlands loses 12.7 per cent of its graduates to other regions, with Wales losing 9 per cent.

The next round of recruitment will begin shortly, with another cohort of graduates set to be placed at SMEs in Sheffield.

Cllr Leigh Bramall, Sheffield City Council deputy leader and cabinet member for business skills and development, said: “RISE is a hot topic at the moment, with core cities across the country looking to this Sheffield-born initiative as a viable solution to what is being described as the ‘brain drain’. Ensuring there is a higher proportion of graduate-level jobs within Sheffield is key to securing business growth and economic stability in our region. Through partnership working we are tackling this challenge head on.”

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