Placements pump SMEs with latest know-how

SMEs could benefit from an undergraduate work placement scheme designed to tackle a problem or a new opportunity which a smaller business may not have the time, resources or in-house skills to deal with.

The Shell Technology Enterprise Programme (STEP) places an undergraduate in their second or penultimate year, with the relevant skills and knowledge, with a company to work on a specific project.

The business will gain “numerous benefits” from the scheme, commented STEP’s Programme Manager, Ulrika Evermark. The undergraduate will provide the relevant skills for a particular project the business may not have had in-house, as well as “financial benefits”; getting in consultants would be more expensive. “The business will be offering an opportunity to the undergraduate [to get work experience in their chosen field] and will benefit from a skilled person focussed on one project for eight weeks.”

Evermark continued, “The most common projects are setting up IT systems, creating websites or databases, projects which small businesses may not have the necessary resources to put in place. Marketing projects, such as creating new designs, producing a new brochure or carrying out market research are also common.”

To be eligible the business must operate independently with under 200 employees, or be a charity or community organisation. It must have a project of a business nature which can be completed by the undergraduate within a period of eight weeks (or the time agreed for the placement), and the business must be able “to commit the necessary resources to supervise the project, and provide the student with an insight into the business.”

The core of the scheme is eight-week summer placements. However, the programme is extending its functions to include placements outside this time frame, as well as 12 month industrial placements (this year so far, focusing on electrical engineering). The deadline for the core scheme is the end of May 2001.

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