Santander Internship fast-tracks Callum to a permanent role

When Planned Office Interiors experienced a period of sustained growth, they knew they needed to strengthen their workforce to meet the increased demand for their services. The Stone-based commercial fit out specialists had heard positive things about Keele University’s business support programmes and approached the University to find out what support was available to them.

The following interview with Pauline Simpson, company Director, who explains how an initial ten-week Santander-funded internship turned into a permanent position for Keele graduate Callum.

What prompted you to recruit an intern from Keele University?

Pauline: “Planned Office Interiors is currently in an exciting time of growth and we needed a new Project Manager to support these developments. We had heard about the various schemes and support available via the university network and had heard positive feedback regarding Keele’s scheme from others within our industry.”

How did you introduce Callum to your industry?

Pauline: “Our approach was to treat Callum’s internships as a long-term investment so we wanted to ensure that we spent the time letting him get to know our business and industry. The duration of the ten-week internship was spent shadowing colleagues at all levels and learning the ins and outs of both the role and our business. As well as allowing him to gain knowledge of what we do, this process also helped us to understand his ability to communicate effectively with a range of stakeholders. I would say that by the fifth week we knew that this was going to be a success story and, before the end of the ten weeks, he was already travelling length of the UK to meet some of our most prestigious clients independently of support from his peers. This relieved pressure on the rest of the team immensely.”

What has Callum brought to the role?

Pauline: “As a Business Management and Marketing graduate, we knew that Callum hadn’t got the usual qualifications that we would be looking for when recruiting a Project Manager. However, with his dual honours degree, we knew he would bring a different level of intelligence into the business and the project side was just about developing good leadership along with his knowledge of the industry. He has brought a fresh-thinking approach to our day-to-day business functions, developed new processes for the way we manage our tender process and has suggested new technology to further develop these approaches, bringing a ‘lean’ methodology to the way in which we work. He has also openly and actively taken an interest in the way we market our business, from rebranding through to social and professional media networks.”

How have things moved on now?

Pauline: “We are now six months into his permanent employment, and we’ve already raised his salary and brought forward his 12 month benefits such as company car and private healthcare. This is due to the hard work and dedication that he’s demonstrated, which I believe is down to his ability to learn, and he continues to impress us every day from his new ideas.”

Have there been any unexpected benefits of the internship?

Pauline: “One of the benefits for us that we did not anticipate is the level at which he is able to relieve the volume of projects that would otherwise need to be managed by other members of the team. He is already managing large-scale projects and teams independently, from tender through to build and completion. This has demonstrated the leadership skills already embedded in him and has allowed more senior members of the team to move onto developing other areas of the business.”

What would you say to any companies thinking of working with Keele University for the recruitment of students and recent graduates?

Pauline: “There would be no hesitation from me in encouraging other SMEs to use Keele in the same way that we did. I felt fully supported by the team at Keele and feel that I’ve been given a good insight into the scheme.

“My advice for any business that is interested in this scheme would be to remain open minded and to think outside the box in terms of the qualifications. Taking the opportunity to interview candidates who you feel might have something they can offer your company even if it doesn’t exactly match your requirements has worked wonders for us. A candidate’s relevant experience, coupled with the modules covered during their studies, has the potential to be a great long-term investment. “

The Keele Internships team has also spoken to Callum to gain an insight on the Santander programme from his point of view.

Callum: “The whole experience has been very beneficial for me as I’ve learnt so much in a relatively short period of time. I’ve already undertaken a wide variety of tasks and projects, and have been given the opportunity to develop and gain increasing responsibility. The role is very demanding but also very rewarding, and I now feel more confident in my ability to make decisions and bring ideas together, especially with the support I have available from my colleagues.

“One of the great things about the Santander scheme is the ability to gain a foothold in a growing and forward-thinking business like Planned Office Interiors. Colleagues were able to take the time to teach me about the role and the business, something which may not have been possible without the funding provided.

“Overall the scheme has provided me with this fantastic opportunity with a great company that I probably wouldn’t have been able to get without the support of both Keele and Santander.”

Santander Universities logo For information on the opportunities available through the Keele-Santander programme please visit Details of other business support programmes available through Keele University’s Business Gateway can be found at

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