Graduates Benefit from The University of Sunderland’s Internship Scheme

First launched in 2011, the University of Sunderland received European Regional Development Funding (ERDF) to run its Graduate Internship Scheme, connecting graduate talent with regional, Small to Medium Enterprises.

It has since provided over 650 graduates the opportunity to work in a variety of small-to-medium private sector organisations across the north-east and delivered nearly £2.4 million in funding to those businesses.

The funding is due to come to an end in 2023, and any employers who want to join the businesses who have already benefitted from the programme, must get their applications in ASAP to apply for funding.

By this summer, the current Internship scheme will have placed more than 200 graduates into full-time roles within growing SMEs, earning an average salary of £20k. After 12 months, employers can decide whether to extend the Intern’s contract. Most graduates have now been offered full-time employment on completion of their internship.

Project Manager Laura Foster said:

“We have been delighted to see SME uptake in the scheme really ramp up in 2022. Providing interesting, graduate-level roles, with the opportunity for progression plays a key part in retaining graduate talent in the region. SMEs place a huge role in our regional economy and the salary subsidy, available through the ERDF funding, supports companies to provide such opportunities for graduates. As the current scheme comes to an end, we are looking forward to matching our emerging Class of 2022 with the exciting roles on offer.”

Graduates on the scheme report that the reality of working in a smaller company means they have an exciting, challenging, and wide breadth of experience which a much larger, corporate organisation may not provide.

One of the SMEs accessing talent via the scheme is South Tyneside based Sales & Marketing Consultancy, Far North Ltd. They recently recruited University of Sunderland, Business and Marketing Management graduate, Arbaz Khan.

Arbaz told us, “I enjoy the different types of businesses I work with. Diverse companies require various solutions. I appreciate a good challenge; I especially enjoy seeing ROI because of something we’ve done. Bringing a customer’s vision to life, whether a website, leaflet or as small as a business card, is up there too!”

He also has some advice to graduates considering an internship, “It gives you an insight into what practical work is; you can talk theory & strategies all day, but if you don’t get on the pitch and do it, you won’t find out if it’s for you. I’d also say do something you enjoy; otherwise, you’ll find it twice as hard to find a reason to stay when it gets tough.”

The scheme delivers European Regional Development Funding (ERDF) and supports SMEs with the cost of employing a graduate, providing £4500 in subsidy payments. After 12 months, employers can decide whether to extend the Intern’s contract.

We encourage SMEs to get in touch as soon as possible, as opportunities are limited with all placements via the scheme being made by Summer 2022. The Graduate Internship Team will ensure you are supported through the complete process from initial enquiry, all the way through to the end of the Internship. Graduates from the previous 5 years, as well as the upcoming class of 2022, are encouraged to explore the roles currently on offer and talk to the team about applying for an internship.

For initial enquires you can contact Donna Bainbridge, Internship Development Co-Ordinator on 07976 199512 or email:


We are currently able to support SMEs that are registered (and operating or trading) in the following areas:

  • Sunderland
  • Newcastle
  • Gateshead
  • South Tyneside
  • North Tyneside
  • Northumberland

The Internships and Enterprise project is receiving up to £3,32,6399 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.

Northern Powerhouse

The Northern Powerhouse is a key aspect of this Government’s approach to addressing the productivity gap in the North and ensuring a stronger, more sustainable economy for all parts of the UK. Alongside over €1.5 billion of European Regional Development Fund support for businesses and communities across the North, the government has awarded £3.4 billion in three rounds of Growth Deals across the Northern Powerhouse.


Credit: Bdaily

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