One of the reasons why Step is so highly regarded by policy makers, businesses and universities is that year after year the students and recent graduates who take part in the programme deliver real tangible benefits for their host businesses whilst at the same time are developing their own employability skills and acquiring important work experience in a commercial environment. It’s a ‘win win’ situation for all involved. Step also has an enviable track record of seeing a very high percentage of short term graduate internships turn into permanent graduate positions.
As one of the Directors here at Step, I don’t usually get involved with individual projects but just before Christmas I had the pleasure of talking to one of our new host businesses, Maths Doctor, that took part in Step for the first time last summer.
Maths Doctor is a part of Macmillan Science and Education, one of the world’s largest and best known international publishing groups. Macmillan Science and Education invest in start-up businesses in the digital education sector and aim to make learning more engaging by developing cutting-edge/innovative digital technology. As part of its growth plans in 2013, Maths Doctor was looking to expand their workforce, though at the start of the recruitment process was not entirely sure where extra resources would be needed. They decided to bring in a cohort of graduate talent who could provide support across all areas of the business. Most importantly they wanted people who were interested in working in a fast moving, start-up business.
Maths Doctor approached Step to help them with their graduate talent search which provided a risk free process for the still small but growing business. Hannah Bickerton and Hannah McDowell started their graduate internships at the end of August with the knowledge that if they performed well there was a graduate job at the end.
Both Hannahs registered with Step whilst still at university. Immediately after graduation, Hannah McDowell, who studied German & Business Studies at the University of Warwick, worked as a translator for a language service provider in Nuremberg, Germany whilst Hannah Bickerton, joined the British Council and taught English to school children in China having graduated in Economics and Mathematics from the University of Sheffield.
A year after graduation, both were looking for a new challenge though neither had a specific career choice in mind. When details of the graduate internship programme at Maths Doctor dropped in to their inbox’s via the Step Opportunities Job Alerts system, both felt it was just what they were looking for; a 12-week graduate internship with the potential to turn into a full time graduate position, offering the chance to be exposed to a multi-disciplined work environment.
The interview process was organised so that everyone in the company got to meet the candidates. Jutta Frieden, of Maths Doctor takes up the story. “We organised a day of assessments and interviews; each candidate had a 15 minute interview with each head of department, designed to find out what part of the business they would fit in to, though at the time we weren’t sure where the growth would be. The selection process focused on personality as their skills sets had been determined from their Step profiles. They needed to have an interest in technology and education and we were looking for graduates with a technical degree who had at least some business acumen”.
“We had four Step graduate interns start at the same time and the idea was for them to spend time in different areas of the business. Within two to three weeks the new interns had made their mark. They were all self-starters who demonstrated an ability to work independently, quickly understood tasks and delivered results on time and without guidance.”
I was keen to understand from both the Hannahs how they had found the experience of working in such a fast moving environment, especially during the early days of their internships.
Hannah Bickerton explains, “ I had expected to receive formal training, but in fact we learned ‘on the job’, there was no structured training. It was good though to be able to talk and share what we were going through with each other.” Hannah Mcdowell also felt the same “to be honest it was a little overwhelming, everything was new and I had no significant experience in using the technology.”
Talking to them via Skype, I could tell that these were two exceptional young women, oozing confidence and who relished the intensity of the experience and level of responsibility that they almost immediately found themselves to have been handed. Whilst they had no defined roles at the start of their internships, they soon made their marks, created their own roles and were offered permanent positions within the company. Hannah McDowell is now responsible for PR, all print campaigns, related data analysis and is working on projects for partnerships in Silicon Valley and Ireland. Hannah Bickerton is now in charge of online marketing, KPI reporting and website optimisation.
Having listened to their stories, I know it wouldn’t suit everyone but it does illustrate what a graduate intern entering a new and/or rapidly growing small business is likely to experience. More importantly however, the ‘Hannahs’ have illustrated again just how much the individuals taking part in Step can gain and the positive impact that they can have on a business.