Speaking at the Innovation KT 2012 conference on 19-20 April, Dey will discuss this issue, focusing on the urgent need for universities to provide students with greater opportunities to engage with small businesses, through internships and work placements.

“Against a backdrop of high unemployment amongst young people – and in light of the recent Wilson Report – this is an area where universities really need to focus their efforts,” says Dey. “Many graduates don’t look at working with SMEs as a serious career option and many careers centres are under-resourced and focus on working with blue-chip companies that have graduate schemes.”

Dey also argues that a better provision for internship opportunities for students during their time at university will support the employability and enterprise skills agenda, currently high on the priority list for all universities across the UK.

“We find that students and graduates who have taken up internships with small and medium sized companies find they learn an incredible amount because they quickly become a part of the team,” says Dey. “Many interns also report finding working for smaller companies incredibly inspiring because they have a better view of all the different aspects of the company.”

Additionally, increasing these kinds of opportunities for students and graduates may provide an additional draw for students looking for universities that will provide them with the best all round experience during their studies, says Dey.

“Students are expecting much more than just good teaching now,” he says. “They’re looking at the additional opportunities universities can provide them with – opportunities that will help them gain employment following graduation. As the market becomes more competitive, universities that have good links with businesses and make provision for students and graduates to gain real world experience are more than likely to see better success in recruiting their target students.”