At a time when work experience has never been more important for students and graduates, Santander, through its Santander Universities Global Division, is partnering with 65 UK universities to offer up to 500 funded internships.  

Announced by Santander’s UK chief executive Ana Botin in July, the Internships scheme is designed to provide genuine entrepreneurial internships to final-year students and recent graduates, whilst giving businesses an opportunity to tap into a pool of some of the brightest young talent emerging from the university system. At the heart of the programme is a revamped placement system, created to match students and graduates with appropriate employers as effectively as possible.

The perfect partnership

For the Interns scheme to be successful, partnership is key. Originally, the process of advertising positions to the student community was facilitated through a central website. Businesses would use the site to advertise a position (along with a description of the role) and students would apply through the same channel. However, the programme has since evolved and the process has been improved, with universities playing a much bigger role.

Businesses seeking to take on a student or graduate still create a job description as before, but this will now normally be channelled through the careers advice department of the local university, rather than being published centrally.

This approach not only enables a business to recruit from a centralised pool of local students and graduates, it also provides an opportunity for the business to build relationships with the university itself. In other words, while the key objective is finding a suitable candidate to fill a position, in the long term, a business may be able to tap into the graduate pool to fill other positions as they arise.

The involvement of universities also focuses the recruitment process. Careers departments know their student bodies and, in many cases, advertising on campus will be more effective than publicising a position through a centralised, national website.

Santander, through its Santander Universities Global Division, is partnering with 65 universities across the UK providing funding for scholarships, mobility grants, entrepreneurship and other activities. In this particular initiative the aim is to facilitate around 500 placements. These will each have £1,500 funding provided by Santander, essentially providing part of a salary for the successful applicants. Employers will provide matching funds. 

Real benefits

The intention of the Internships scheme is to provide more than simple work experience. A typical candidate will have technical or administrative skills that can be applied to a live issue within the host business. That could mean an HR graduate looking at the future staffing requirements to underpin a growth plan, or a marketing or design professional working on new product ideas. This is the case with award-winning Scottish brewery, WEST, which has recently hired two Glasgow University graduates to help develop an effective marketing strategy.
The common factor is interns working on high-value projects that offer real benefits to the company and the scheme worked perfectly for women’s clothing and accessories retailer, Wall Luxury Essentials Ltd.

“Having an intern working in our company through the Santander Internships Programme has given us the opportunity to find the resources to complete an HR project that was essential to take our business to the next level,” says Chief Executive Officer Hernán Balcázar “The project helped us identify gaps in our organisation and as a consequence we are able to offer a full-time position to our intern,” he adds. “Working with the intern for three months has helped us get to know the individual and the quality of his work, and also for the intern to get to know our company.”

In fact, in a number of cases, placements can lead to full-time work. YourVets – a veterinary practice founded in Coventry – recruited an intern from Warwick Business School. As part of his final MBA dissertation he focused on demand management and LEAN processes to improve workflow and veterinary productivity. The student was offered a permanent full time job at the end of a three-month internship.

As Santander CEO Ana Botin pointed out when announcing the new internships programme, graduate unemployment is “One of the most pressing issues facing the country.” Through the Santander Internships scheme we aim to improve graduate opportunities while also giving businesses the chance to deploy the talents of motivated and entrepreneurial people. It’s a win-win situation.