Starting out? Try starting-up...

Natalie Campbell looks at the new venture aimed at creating the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

Can graduates rely on the safety net of the traditional internship or graduate job this year? The evidence suggests 'no'. Vacancies for graduate jobs are expected to fall by 5.4% in 2009, banks expect a massive 28% cut in the number of vacancies they will be offering and salaries are being frozen for new recruits. Individuals seeking their first step onto the career ladder will be, for the first time since 2003, operating in an employers market. Applicants for the jobs still out there will be expected to have more skills, better grades and some form of industry experience as a minimum. In such turbulent times what options do graduates have to develop their CV and rise above the competition of the near 400,000 graduates leaving the UK's 168 universities every year? One young entrepreneur brought his knowledge, and passion for start-ups together to create an online platform to give graduates opportunities to work with some of the UK's best entrepreneurs and most innovative start-ups.

Rajeeb Dey, 23, who has been named as one of the UK's "rising stars of the business world" by Spectator Business Magazine - graduated with First Class Honours in June 2008 from the University of Oxford. Whilst at university he was the longest serving President of Oxford Entrepreneurs, one of the largest networks of student entrepreneurs in Europe, with over 4000 members.

Using his dense network of contacts and understanding of students, he set out to challenge the stereotypical 'graduate milkround job' and traditional internships offered each year by starting Enternships. Enternships is the first online platform to successfully recruit people for roles in distinctly entrepreneurial companies. Dey characterizes Enternships as internships in entrepreneurial environments that include 'being given personal responsibility for actions; the autonomy to tackle problems and issues; room for creativity; even an element of risk and reward. Ultimately, an "enternship" aims to help develop an 'entrepreneurial mindset', which, according to research published by Demos and Orange PLC, are core assets for any new recruit. In the report HR directors were asked "Which do you believe will be the most important skill, quality or aptitude for potential graduate employees to have in ten years' time?" and "Creativity and innovation" came top (24%).

Dey also believes working in an entrepreneurial environment is the perfect launch-pad for building the skills to start your own business, and in this climate probably the best way to ensure you have an understanding of how businesses operate and succeed during a recession.

"If you want to be a lawyer, accountant, banker etc. you can do internships in the summer of your penultimate year but if you want to be an entrepreneur, other than setting up your own venture the best way to learn is to work in a start-up / small firm. That's why I decided to launch a portal which would connect students to fast growing dynamic firms which they may not have heard of but which can provide them with some fantastic opportunities to learn, develop and add value. It's about changing the mindset that many students have that if you do not work in a corporate you have not succeeded. In the current economic climate in particular there are far less jobs available in the big corporations so it's about time we shifted our attention to the 'long tail' of the recruitment industry and looked at the millions of small but exciting firms out there."

The platform is currently in development to be launched in March 09 and will manage the entire recruitment process from posting a vacancy to searching, filtering and selecting candidates.

The scheme has been successfully piloted at Oxford University as a pure listing service. Despite no active marketing to companies, over 160 Enternships have been posted on the website to date; these were advertised to students through the Oxford Entrepreneurs network. Enternships has also won acclaim in Esquire magazine, securing Dey a finalist award in the Esquire Magazine New Business Challenge 2008.

Enternships have already been advertised in dynamic high profile companies such as Cobra Beer, and Innocent Smoothies. Enternships has generated support from established entrepreneurs such as Lord Bilimoria who offers an annual enternship; BBC Dragon's Den star Peter Jones who has offered five enternships; Martha Lane Fox, Brent Hoberman & Caroline Plumb - Co-Founder of Freshminds - who have all advertised for Enterns to work with them in their businesses. Unique opportunities are also being arranged in start-ups in Silicon Valley and India for when the new website launches.

A recent Entern, James Reid, 21, worked with popular Dragon - Peter Jones. Peter Jones Investments, manages the business interests of the firms that Peter Jones of BBC's Dragons' Den has investments in, along with the media interests of Mr. Jones himself. As an Entern in the firm, his role was varied, and reflected the diverse nature of work within a small business dealing with start-up companies in their infancy. He was encouraged to get involved in all areas of the business, ranging from input into the design of a board game based upon one of Mr. Jones' TV programmes, re-designing and rewording a website for one of Peter's largest investments, to working with the team to review potential investments' business plans and assessing their viability.

As a graduate applying for jobs for the summer, and upon graduation, having this experience on your CV jumps out to potential employers because they are looking for individuals who can add value, think independently and most importantly play a roll in developing the business further. Developing enterprise skills with an entrepreneur is the best way to sharpen the skills industry needs. "Enternships will take entrepreneurship in the UK to the next level - helping business today and developing the entrepreneurs of tomorrow. It helps to bring together the inspiring with the aspiring" Jason Choy, Chairman of the Institute of Directors' Young Directors Forum & CEO of Welcome Gate.

Research from the Association for Graduate Recruiters has advised graduates to research jobs and prepare for interviews more thoroughly than ever as competition intensifies. Carl Gilleard, Chief Executive of the AGR said: "What is certain is that the economic crisis is concentrating employers' minds on the war for the best and most well-informed talent. The message coming through loud and clear for this year's graduates is research, research and more research - know your potential employer and know your sector."

The best way to get to know a sector and gain the necessary skills and new prerequisite of CV X-factor is to Entern with companies that set the benchmark across the industry. With over half of the UK population (54%) optimistic that entrepreneurs and business can pull us through the global economic downturn, Enterning will boost your recruitment potential, business acumen and start-up knowledge. Ultimately, pushing your CV to the top of the pile.

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