A CHALLENGING internship will see a young graduate help young children and couples become families.

Jennifer Norman's six month paid internship with the Family Placement Service at Darlington Borough Council will see her work with local authorities across the North-East to help match couples looking to adopt with children needing a family.

The 21-year-old is the second graduate to be brought into the service after work between Foundation for Jobs and Teesside University to create more high-quality internship places at North-East firms and organisations for young graduates

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Foundation for Jobs is a national award winning partnership between The Northern Echo, Darlington Borough Council, and the Darlington Partnership, which aims to tackle the long-term causes of unemployment for young people aged 24 and under.

It has supported more than 3,000 young people since April 2012 and working with its partners, including Teesside University and Job Centre Plus, has secured more than 335 graduate internship places or work experience places for unemployed young people.

Sociology graduate Miss Norman, from Darlington, said: “It was a career I wanted to get into but most employers wanted a minimum of two years’ experience, so the internship was a perfect opportunity to get into the role and work alongside professionals.

“It has allowed me to see what the workplace is like.

"I had been at university which allowed me to get the academic knowledge, but obviously this has allowed me to put this into practice in a workplace environment.

“I have already been asked to put together brochures that will be taken to an event.

"I am not just watching people, I am doing my own work with my own name on it so it is a lot of responsibility, but I thrive on that.”

Councillor Chris McEwan, Foundation for Jobs chairman, said: “We want to turn on its head the traditional perception of an intern as a graduate carrying out menial roles in a large company for no pay in the hope of landing a permanent job.

“All the internships we work with Teesside University to develop are paid and have to involve a specific project where the graduate can bring their skills to bear.

“Internships are a great way for a company or organisation to bring in someone with a specific skill set they need for a set period, at the same time as offering the graduate an opportunity to shine by putting what they have learnt at university into practice on genuinely challenging projects.”

Last year, Teesside university graduate Chris Goodyear was brought into the Family Placement Service and overhauled the department’s online and social media presence as well as developing campaign materials for schools, GPs surgeries and public offices, leading to an increase in the number of potential adopters come forward particularly through Twitter and Facebook.

Laura Woods, Teesside University’s director of academic enterprise, added: "I think it is really important to get the message across that this is something that has real value and substance.

“It is about allowing the graduate to take on a real substantial project within a company, which allows the company to operate in a more efficient way.

“Because of that these internships have value, therefore they are salaried, it is not about free work.”

For further details about recruiting an intern contact either Teesside University’s Business Team on 01642-384068 or email business@tees.ac.uk.

Alternatively, email Foundation for Jobs co-ordinator Owen McAteer at owen.mcateer@darlington.co.uk