Universities across the North East are ramping up efforts to keep talented graduates from leaving the region.
In a bid to halt the brain-drain, hundreds of paid internships and a new business start-up fund have been launched at two universities within days of each other.
Northumbria’s most famous alumni, who designed the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad and every other Apple product of the past 15 years, flew in from Florida for a special event to launch a new ‘Enterprise and Innovation Fund’ to create and support more graduate businesses in the region.
Also at the event were fellow Northumbria graduates, former Scotland rugby international Scott Hastings and fashion designer Scott Henshall.
Vice-Chancellor of Northumbria University Professor Andrew Wathey said: “There is no better demonstration of an entrepreneurial culture in our programmes than the role the university has played over the last few years in supporting the creation of new graduate businesses.
“Providing support for more students and alumni to engage in this activity is the purpose of our new fund.
“It will give more of our students access to seed-funding to establish and grow their business ideas, undertake enterprise-focused work placements, and access proof-of-concept funding.”
Sir Jonathan, a graduate of Northumbria’s design for industry course, spent time on campus before the dinner meeting with students.
Dan Robson, who graduated from the university’s design course three years ago, spoke to Sir Jonathan at the event.
Dan, 27, set up his own successful business Green Digit Gardening after working on placement in a plastics packaging factory.
He said: “Jonathan gave a speech which discussed the importance of what design can achieve in changing people’s lives for the better.
“You hear stories of how incredible he was as a student in design.
“He was always somebody I hugely admired.
“Meeting him was like a Manchester United fan meeting Eric Cantona. It was a huge milestone in my career and lifetime.”
Also, around 500 graduate level jobs and paid internships have been made available through a project, led by the University of Sunderland.
Around 300 are available now with the other 200 to follow next year.
The internships will see graduates working full-time for an organisation for between three to 12 months, while earning a salary.
The project will help tackle the skills shortage affecting regional productivity, according to the university’s vice-chancellor Professor Julie Mennell.
She said: “It’s heartening that such a large proportion of students want to stay in this great region after graduating.
“We need to ensure that they have the graduate level job opportunities to help them to do that, as it’s not only a benefit to the students.
“Talented and skilled people like these have such an important part to play in the social, cultural and economic well-being of a region.
“Latest figures reveal how important it is that we retain these types of graduates.
Every year, the university and its graduates contribute £428 million to the regional economy, supporting 5,383 jobs.”