Regional growth programme RISE receives funding boost

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A project which has been connecting graduates to small to medium-sized businesses across the region for the past five years is celebrating a major funding boost.

City partners have been awarded £684,000 of funding from the European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.

The funding matches a significant investment in the project made by Sheffield Hallam University, The University of Sheffield and Sheffield City Council.

The RISE Enhancement Project will continue to expand the work of the RISE scheme, initially piloted in 2013, to support businesses across the Sheffield City Region to recruit talented graduates.

RISE delivers a bespoke programme of business support activity designed to address the barriers limiting SMEs’ access to graduates. This has helped to strengthen the skills base of the city region and enhance the region’s reputation as a graduate-friendly place to pursue a rewarding career.

In five years RISE helped more than 300 local SMEs to recruit more than 400 graduate employees with over 75 per cent of RISE graduates going on to secure permanent employment. Many progress quickly within the company, seeing increased responsibility and pay rises early on, proving the success of the matches made by the scheme.

A recent evaluation of the scheme estimated that RISE has had a positive economic impact of more than £7.7m in net GVA with its return on investment equally as impressive, standing at £14 per £1 spent. These figures compare very favourably to other graduate employment and business support schemes delivered across other parts of the UK.

Jonathan Buck, Managing Director, Riverside Automation, one of the companies which has benefitted from RISE, said: “RISE worked really well for us. The RISE team took on all the initial applications and whittled them down through the four assessment stages. Basically, they did a lot of ground work for us – which was great as we wouldn’t have had the resources to interview the number of initial applicants ourselves.”

The RISE Enhancement Project will launch in Autumn this year and will include new features, such as an enhanced grant for companies seeking to recruit competitive digital roles, in recognition of the significant shortage in these areas, which price many SMEs out of the graduate market.

There will also be an improved business support offer, with businesses receiving information, advice and brokerage from specialist advisors and a dedicated post to support SMEs access other support after a graduate is appointed.

In the next three years the RISE Enhancement Project will support a further 200 SMEs across the Sheffield City Region to recruit 330 graduate employees.

Councillor Mazher Iqbal, Cabinet Member for Business and Investment at Sheffield City Council said: “The take up of RISE shows that small and medium sized businesses across the region value graduate talent but that they often need support in bringing them into their organisations.  I’m delighted that RISE has successfully bid for funds to continue providing this service to SMEs and that this will create more economic impact for the region.”

Professor Sir Chris Husbands, Vice-Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University said: “The University is committed to supporting the region to grow and thrive.  RISE is a way we can create more opportunities for our graduates to stay and make excellent contributions to businesses here with their skills and knowledge they have gained through studying with us.  I am so pleased that our support has ensured the continuation of RISE and look forward to seeing it grow and develop in this next phase.”

Professor Koen Lamberts, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield said: “We are deeply proud that our University is working in partnership with our city region and local employers to develop the skilled graduates businesses need.  Projects like RISE make us an extremely attractive region to those looking for talent to contribute to their companies.  This ‘Sheffield model’ is nationally and internationally pioneering, and I am happy to be able to commit funding to ensure it continues in the future.”

David Grimes, Head of the Sheffield City Region Growth Hub, said: “The RISE Enhancement Project is a useful initiative for the region’s businesses to tap into and we’re pleased to continue to support this successful programme as it helps connect graduate talent to businesses that are looking to innovate, grow and bring in new skills.”