Graduate academy takes on students
A PIONEERING graduate academy is taking on its next batch of ex-students – and has already given one alumni a full-time job.
Kayleigh Johns has been offered a permanent position as an account executive at the bluestone360 academy.
In fact, she will be effectively running the academy.
Miss Johns, who has an English degree from Plymouth University, was among the first intake at the academy earlier this year.
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The initiative was set up by bluestone360, a brand and business development agency based at the Royal William Yard, to offer Plymouth University creative sector graduates three months work alongside its regular team.
Of the original intake, Iliyana Stareva has gone on to a PR internship, and Jamie Bush has taken a graphic design internship in Bristol.
A new graduate, Olivia Rowe, has already started, with Justin Bartlett arriving this month, and interviews for a third under way.
Mervyn Orchard, blueseone360 director and co-founder, described the academy as a "finishing school" and said: "It's a win, win, win model."
He said the academy was good for students, giving them real-life working experience.
It's also good for bluestone360 – a firm with a national profile and client list that includes Ginsters, Tulip and Foot Anstey – allowing the company to find new clients.
And it's good for those client businesses too, he said, because they would typically be small businesses and charities that may otherwise be unable to avail themselves of the services of such a high-profile agency.
But Mr Orchard stressed the academy involves the graduates working on their own projects – and it must make money.
"The key is it must be a commercial and stand-alone business," he said. "We are trying to make it bluestone360-lite.
"It can help graduates get into work and help small businesses.
"We are focused on national clients. That's what we are successful with. But it cuts us out of up to 80 per cent of the local market, because we are too expensive.
"But bluestone360 academy can help this level of business at more cost-effective prices.
"And we can oversee that everything it does is still high standard."
Mr Orchard said that often graduates have intelligence and with "no lack of fire", but lack experience in the commercial world.
The academy resolves this, he said, and added: "We have been able to put graduates in a commercial situation and push them, and help them gain skills.
"They go with a portfolio of clients they have worked with, and more confidence than when they came here.
"It helps with recruitment and to see new talent, and find out if they work with the DNA of the team.
"And it's about keeping talent in Plymouth.
"I want to stay in contact with the alumni and at the right time, when there's an opportunity with our clients we'll know someone they can go to."
The academy works closely with Plymouth University's faculty of arts and the Research and Innovation Directorate to find talented graduates in fields such as graphic design, marketing, account management, and digital and web development.
And it is already set to expand, by becoming involved with undergraduates, too. "We could even make it part of a course, to come to bluestone360 for three months," Mr Orchard said.
"The model we are creating could go into other sectors. That's why the universities and schools are excited."
"We want to have 10 to 12 graduates, 12 months from now.
"We are talking to some educational institutions within Plymouth and looking to tie them in with the academy.
"We are in discussions. It's pretty much a given that will happen. And if it can stand on its own two feet, it could even be a stand-alone business."