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Pilot Project Creates 14 Placement Opportunities and Boosts Business in Rural Wales

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A new, fully funded, programme for rurally-based businesses in Mid Wales is injecting funds and has created 14 placement opportunities for students living in the local community.

The Mid Wales Challenge Led Launchpad programme, delivered by AberInnovation and funded by the UK Government’s Community Renewal Fund and the Welsh Government, provides successful start-up firms with £30,000 funding to help them develop novel solutions through research and innovation.

Dr Rhian Hayward MBE, AberInnovation CEO, explains that as well as the excellent opportunity to promote innovative businesses in the region, a key element of the funding is to provide young professionals with career development in their local communities. 

“We do have a big challenge in Mid Wales in making sure that those who want to live and work here within research and development professions have the right skills,”

she explains.

“Equally, we also want to retain these people and make it attractive for them to stay in this part of the world, while giving the companies receiving the funding, extra capacity to deliver the work required.”

Vertikit, an online retailer for vertical farming and controlled environment equipment, is one of the successful businesses awarded funding and a placement student.

“As we’re a new business, we haven’t got the resource to dedicate the time that’s needed for sourcing and recruiting candidates, so additional support in this area has been vital for us,”

says William Stiles, Director of Vertikit.

“Through the skills development area of the Launchpad project we can advance projects much more quickly.”

Being a small business has also meant that William’s placement student, MaryAnn Peel who is studying at Aberystwyth University, has worked on a defined project with a clear outcome, providing a rewarding experience as well as a boost to her CV.

“I want to go into research, and this project has been research based, so it’s been fantastic to be able to carry out work experience in an area that’s relevant to my future career,”

MaryAnn explains.

“In Aberystwyth it’s been very hard to find any work experience, let alone work that’s relevant in this rural area.”

Placement opportunities to date have been available to 18- to 25-year-olds, and run for the duration of the funded project. It is hoped that longer term placements will become available and permanent job roles created over the longer-term.

“For us, it’s a win-win if those currently searching for skills building opportunities end up pursuing a career with the business they were matched with,”

concludes Dr Hayward.