Student high-flyers offer boost to Barnsley businesses
23 September 2010
An innovative programme that allows businesses in Barnsley to harness the skills and enthusiasm of undergraduates has expanded for the new academic year.
Services to Business, based in the Centre for Creative Enterprise at University Campus Barnsley, employs placement students to provide small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with up to five days of free work.
The project, part of the Enterprising Barnsley initiative, had a successful first year offering short-term support to almost 30 local companies.
This second year involves six students, compared to four last year, and the areas in which they specialise are web design and development, graphic design, social media, general business support and marketing. Work is carried out in a professional office environment with students working under close supervision of qualified academic staff.
Suzanne Bagworth, coordinator of the Business Mine - a facility that allows students and graduates to research and develop their ideas for business or self-employment - administers the Services to Business initiative. She liaises closely with Enterprising Barnsley’s business development managers.
Suzanne said that the programme is believed to be the first of its kind regionally.
She said: “We try to accommodate needs as far as possible and the students’ efforts can make a very real difference. The feedback last year was extremely positive with all four of the undergraduates offered opportunities when their courses finish.
“Students face a thorough selection process to take part such is the competition for places. Not only are they based in a modern, fully-equipped centre opened just last November, they receive regular training in their field and have the full support of the University Campus Barnsley and the University of Hudderfield, which the campus is part of.
“Overall, the aim of the programme is to forge relationships with eligible businesses in Barnsley. Once we have provided initial early stage support we can then refer on to other services including business coaches provided through Enterprising Barnsley.”
Simon Ratcliffe, 21, was involved last year as a multimedia assistant as part of his information and communication technology degree.
He said: “The main attraction of Services to Business was to gain real life work-based experience and I worked on a wide range of projects in both web design and development. The project helped me to develop both my technical, professional and personal skills and make vital contacts for when I graduate. I’ve received web maintenance job offers although I’m still deciding which area of the IT industry I want to go into.”
Blue Sky Creative Solutions, a small marketing company which specialises in assisting other small firms with their marketing needs, was among eligible enterprises to benefit.
One of its directors Steven Burton said students, led by Simon, had helped to create the template for its new online project called iTowns. This aims to set up websites for various locations featuring news, sport and community events where small, local businesses can advertise. It begins later this year with iBarnsley.com.
He said: “We used the Services to Business scheme initially to reduce the burden of designing the iBarnsley interface on our three staff. However, it quickly became clear that the students had a variety of talents that we could use, together with a youthful enthusiasm and knowledge of the most modern and contemporary thinking in areas such as web design, graphics and marketing.
“They successfully created the template that will be used on iBarnsley.com and any future iTowns ventures and essentially gave us the ‘look and feel’ that will be so important in the success of the site. The team’s contribution turned an idea into imminent reality. A small company like ours can’t support or justify a research and development section as we find it almost impossible to take time away from supporting our day-to-day customers to explore the possibilities for our future development. Services to Business allowed exactly that – a team of young, energetic, talented, motivated and well-managed individuals who enabled our business to take a giant leap forward.”
Students embarking on this year’s programme are Jordon Schofield, Elliot Rushforth, Nicholas Forsdyke, Kate Webber, Sally Gunson and Joana Sulaiman.
The Enterprising Barnsley programme offers business support to Barnsley businesses with growth potential. Enterprising Barnsley has attracted £2.89m investment from the European Regional Development Fund as part of Europe’s support for the region’s economic development through the Yorkshire and Humber ERDF Programme.
Sectors eligible for help are advanced manufacturing and materials, digital and creative industries, financial and business services, bioscience, sports technology, environmental technology and food and drink technologies.
Notes to News Editors:
For further information about the scheme contact Suzanne Bagworth as above.
Enterprising Barnsley is a partnership between Barnsley Development Agency, Barnsley Business and Innovation Centre, University Campus Barnsley and Barnsley & Rotherham Chamber of Commerce. It is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to provide an integrated programme of business support. For further information, contact James Herbert, marketing and networks manager, on 01226 249590 or email firstname.lastname@example.org