Graduate Advantage launches career enhancing voluntary internship scheme

Graduate Advantage launches career enhancing voluntary internship scheme
Priya from The Vine interviews Olympic athlete, Denise Lewis.

6th October 2011

Graduate Advantage (GA) is expecting a high demand from both employers and graduates for their new voluntary internship scheme being launched today within the West Midlands.

Sourcing fresh and enthusiastic talent for a short term project or role can be both time consuming and frustrating for small businesses. GA is able to give companies more choice by taking the recruitment headache away.

Throughout their courses graduates gain a variety of skills and a vast amount of knowledge however, degrees do not always equip them with the essential commercial awareness and practical experience sought by many employers. Voluntary internships and exposure to a professional environment are an essential way of getting graduates work ready, and making them more employable in the future.

Two graduates, Priya and Karen were recruited on a voluntary internship at The Vine publication. Both were recent graduates looking to add to their experience after completing degrees in Journalism and Media and Communication studies. The Vine is a free publication aimed at the black and minority ethnic community in the Midlands covering all aspects of life. The magazine aims to inspire, empower and educate by highlighting individuals, businesses, community groups and organisations that have achieved real success.

Priya and Karen supported the magazine by creating some editorial design, researching articles as well as representing the magazine at events across the region. They also wrote a number of articles that were published in the magazine, as well as getting to sit-in and interview people like the Olympic athlete, Denise Lewis, and singer/songwriter Beverley Knight.

“Both Karen & Priya hit the ground running; both contributing from day one without much guidance as they are able to act on their own initiative and have brought ideas forward that we hadn’t thought of. Their presence allowed us to concentrate on the development of the organisation and it gave them a chance to develop too,” commented Joanne Gayle, Business Development Manager at The Vine.

The new voluntary internship service offered by GA complements their paid internship services which have been running for 8 years across the region. Developed out of the successful West Midlands Graduate Internships pilot project (WMGI), this new service has been created from lessons learnt and offers more choice to businesses wishing to take on a graduate. Graduates are able to volunteer on an unpaid basis from 4 to a maximum of 16 weeks. To assist them a fund has been created enabling them to claim travel expenses.

Graduate Advantage is funded through the European Regional Development Fund and a mixture of private sector investment and university support.

To find out how to benefit from the service, contact the Graduate Advantage Team on T. 0121 204 4767 or visit www.graduateadvantage.co.uk  


Editor’s Notes:

Graduate Advantage

Graduate Advantage arranges both paid and voluntary internships across the West Midlands. It is a not-for-profit organisation established in 2002 to build and improve links between the business community and the student and graduate population within the region. The scheme is supported by a consortium of universities, led by Aston University.

Graduate Advantage has been made up of a number of projects and has delivered in excess of 2000 placements in its last funding round (up to end of March 2011).


The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Programme which runs from 2007 to 2013, is one of the funds established by the European Commission to help regions stimulate their economic development.

The West Midlands ERDF Programme has been allocated 400 million euros to invest in projects which will support regional businesses and create jobs.

Activities which are supported by ERDF cover specific areas:

  • Innovation and R&D

  • Enterprise Development

  • Sustainable Urban Development

  • Inter-Regional Activity

The Programme is managed and delivered in the region by Advantage West Midlands (AWM), the Regional Development Agency for the West Midlands. From 1st July 2011 management of the Programme will transfer to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

For more information visit www.advantagewm.co.uk/current-activities/erdf-programme  


The WMGI scheme was launched in July 2009, after research revealed a high demand in 90% of West Midlands businesses for unpaid placements. At the same time, correspondingly strong evidence identified that 75% of graduates were prepared to consider both paid and unpaid work experience.

Regional trends noted by Graduate Advantage and Advantage West Midlands regarding the supply and demand for graduate talent, were echoed by the internship pilot.

Research showed that 37% of bosses were looking for Marketing, PR and sales skills, whilst 24% were seeking people with IT skills. However, only 6% of graduate applications offered Marketing, PR and Sales skills and just 9% offered IT skills.

WMGI focused on getting graduates into small-to-medium sized enterprises taking part deal offered meant that graduates were given work experience, securing up to 30 hours a week for anything from four weeks to six months, whilst in most cases being supported by Job Seekers Allowance

71% of the graduate applicants were from West Midlands Universities and 29% were people returning to the region.