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Successful student interns consider a future in Leicester

Published on Monday, July 26, 2021

Picture shows Asmaa Abdalla, left, and Rhea Francois

STUDENTS in Leicester have been finding out what job opportunities are available to them locally thanks to an internship scheme being run by Leicester City Council, De Montfort University and the University of Leicester.

The Leicester: Graduate City project places second-year university students with local small and medium enterprises (SMEs) for a six-week internship. The idea is to provide local employers with access to students’ skills, while students get the chance to experience the working environment and find out more about the range of local opportunities on offer from businesses in Leicester and Leicestershire.

Thirty-seven students have just completed the first round of internships to be offered by the scheme, where they were placed at businesses including a local community radio station, a halal food delivery business, a textiles manufacturer and a legal firm. Students were also placed in creative and educational services, logistics and distribution, a local regeneration project and an organisation that helps to support Leicester’s diverse communities.

Asmaa Abdalla, 20, is studying MChem Chemistry with a year in industry at the University of Leicester. She was placed at Reactive Components Ltd.

She said: “This was my first ever experience of the world of work. Being faced with new challenges, receiving problems to solve, and analysing the data obtained after conducting new experiments are all things I have enjoyed doing during my internship. It was a great experience and I was lucky enough to be offered employment, so I am looking forward to working at my internship place at least until September.

“This internship has demonstrated that there are great employment opportunities in Leicester for a chemistry graduate, so I can now consider staying in Leicester after my studies.”

BA (Hons) contour fashion student Rhea Francois, 24, from De Montfort University, carried out her local internship at textiles manufacturer Basic Premier Ltd.

She said: “I have been working on site, measuring and fitting garments, doing pattern amendments and using specialist software. I have enjoyed working in a fast-paced environment and meeting new people. Every day has been different so there has always been something for me to do which I have really enjoyed. 

I think that internships are very useful because they help to give a bigger picture of what jobs are out there for you in a certain industry. They also provide skills that you would not necessarily learn whilst studying. 

“Staying in Leicester is something that I will consider when I graduate now that I know there are jobs in Leicester within the fashion industry.”

The Leicester: Graduate City project will run until February 2023, offering a series of six-week internships for second-year students.

It is a £1.6m scheme which has been part-funded by the European Social Fund (£840,000), with additional funding from Leicester City Council (around £309,000), De Montfort University (nearly £214,000) and the University of Leicester (nearly £317,000). The funding is used to help set up the internships, and at least 96 SMEs will benefit from the internship scheme.

Yakesh Tanna, from ZMS Legal in Leicester, is one such employer. He said: “Our student from DMU, Abigail Scott, has been a model intern - quick to understand, willing to take direction but with a mind of her own. She has performed all tasks in a conscientious, meticulous and diligent manner.

“I would certainly recommend the scheme to other employers as it enables junior talent to flourish and remain in Leicester, which helps in the development and growth of the city. It also enables individuals to develop their transferable skills.”

Steve Brown, from Leicestershire-based recruitment firm Euro Projects, added: “Our intern, Joshua Richardson, has been very focused with a real can-do attitude. Josh has been helping to update our database and explore contacts in new markets for us, and has taken on everything we have asked him with enthusiasm and ease.

“We have had many placement students and interns over the years and we love sharing our experience and giving them the opportunity to gain valuable real world work experience with us. Several of our senior consultants today started out as interns many years ago.”

An economic and social impact report published last year by the University of Leicester showed that students are a vital part of local economy. Almost 20,000 students contribute annually to the city’s economy in shops, bars and restaurants, spending £10million.

However, once they graduate, only 27% of students choose to make Leicester their home.

Leicester City Council’s assistant city mayor for jobs and skills, Cllr Danny Myers, said: “Students are an absolutely vital part of our city’s economy, community and cultural life. These internships allow students to share their knowledge with local employers, who can use these skills to problem-solve in ways they may not have thought of before.

“It’s also a chance for students to experience the range of opportunities that could be available to them locally and find out more about Leicester’s reputation as a great place for start-ups and small businesses. This will help us to increase graduate retention, boosting our skills pool, which will in turn attract more employers to the city. It’s win-win.”

De Montfort University’s Head of Graduate Success, Adele Browne, said: “It is exciting that by offering these internships to second year students, we are already seeing the employers making longer-term job offers that will enable the students to stay in Leicester. Having a graduate job is a deciding factor in whether students stay in the city. First and foremost, they need the means to rent somewhere to live once their student accommodation ends.”

Rob Fryer, Director of Student Opportunity at the University of Leicester, added: “Leicester is a hugely vibrant city and already a great place to do business, and to offer students a range of additional opportunities through this Graduate City scheme delivers benefits for everyone.

“Not only do businesses in the city get to benefit from our hugely talented students, but our students, in turn, can enjoy what could become career-defining experiences right here in Leicester and Leicestershire.”

Students interested in becoming part of the scheme can find out more through their university careers services. Employers who are interested in joining should email sally.hackett@leicester.gov.uk

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Notes to Editors

Picture shows Asmaa Abdalla, left, and Rhea Francois

European Social Fund

The Graduate City Project is receiving up to £840k of funding from the European Social Fund as part of the 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme in England. Established by the European Union, the European Social Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support skills development, employment and job creation, social inclusion and local community regenerations. For more information visit

https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding