The University of Reading stepped up to ensure that both students and local businesses could continue to benefit from the Reading Internship Scheme, despite the impact of the pandemic, by fully funding 99 internships.
In recognition of the financial impact of the pandemic on today’s students – who rely on paid work, including internships, to make ends meet – the University has recently launched its Student Hardship Appeal to support students in desperate financial situations.
CONNECTED takes a look at how the University is supporting its students and the local community, focusing on the fully funded, remote internships that took place during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The Reading Internship Scheme
Run by the Careers Service at the University, in association with Santander Universities and The Earley Charity, the Reading Internship Scheme runs all academic year, offering students four to eight week project-based placements with local, small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). These internships allow students to develop their transferable skills, while employers benefit from extra support and a fresh perspective on a project.
Holly Forsyth, Reading Internship Scheme Coordinator, said:
“The Scheme supports our community of students and employers by providing a platform where they can connect through four to eight week internships.”
Since the Scheme began in 2013 it has placed more than 400 students into paid placements, and also offers full and partial grants to participating employers to support with salary costs.
Finding a way
The University didn’t let the pandemic cancel this year’s internship plans, it instead offered fully funded internships to all local businesses, which were delivered remotely due to lockdown measures.
99 students were placed with local businesses this year, and both students and employers alike have had a positive experience.
“Offering virtual internships and 100% funding during the pandemic has enabled us to work with many more businesses and students, to ensure we are supporting our communities through this difficult time.”
Alyssa Letton, a third-year Management and Business student who worked as a digital marketing intern at Continuity Partner, said of her internship:
“I was always busy during my internship, but never felt overburdened. I took on a wide range of tasks, for example, interviewing residents about building safety issues, video editing and helping to drive Twitter engagement.
“I learnt so much in my short time with Continuity Partner, including building safety issues currently impacting the industry, what it means to be an entrepreneur and using marketing to drive business growth.
“I am very grateful to Matt and Richard for what I have learnt and for giving me this opportunity.”
Lara Plaxton from GotDis – a platform which closes the relationship gap between emerging talent and established talent – had a Reading student working with them this year.
She said: “The quality of candidates who applied for the position has been exceptional.
“The successful candidate has been integral to not only our marketing activity, which she was brought in to do, but also helping us to develop our business model, product design and strategy given her strong commercial acumen and enthusiasm to take on all the challenges and opportunities we were able to offer.”
This year – for the first time – the Scheme has also introduced a living cost bursary model, which is designed for undergraduates who are registered with the University’s disability service or who receive the Reading Bursary, and who have secured a four-six week, unpaid, extracurricular internship. This arm of the Reading Internship Scheme has so far supported a further eight students.
Holly said: “The bursary was new for this year but has enabled us to support those students who secure their own internships which are unpaid, with a living cost bursary.”
Supporting our students
With around a quarter of students from the University remaining in the local area to live and work following graduation, and many more staying in the London and Thames Valley region, the Reading Internship Scheme provides valuable experience and networking opportunities for students and employers alike.
Please email Holly Forsyth if you are interested in taking part in the Reading Internship Scheme as an employer.
But not every student was able to secure paid work this summer. For huge numbers of students, their options for supporting their studies have changed and they face more uncertainty ahead. The Student Hardship Appeal is designed to provide emergency grants to students in unexpected financial crisis; when they have run out of other options and dropping out of University is a very real possibility.