Tech-savvy students help businesses develop digitally during pandemic

Students have been using their digital skills to help businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic develop digitally and find new customers during the coronavirus pandemic.

From supporting companies with new websites, or booking systems to developing online programmes, the students have won praise from companies across the city and county for their work.


De Montfort University Leicester (DMU)’s DMU Works team launched the voluntary placement programme within a week of lockdown. It advertised free business support to SMEs in Leicester by matching them with digital-savvy students.

The students spent time with the company, working remotely to provide services and collaborating with their clients. For many it was valuable experience which they could use to build their CV, while businesses were able to gain free help with specific issues.

In all, 23 companies were matched with students, all local SMEs that needed help with digital issues.

Sue Jerham is the director of National Forest E-Bike Holidays. She was matched with computer science student Trevor Wood, who was able to make her website work harder for her during the pandemic by creating a booking and enquiry page.

She said: “I'm a delighted customer and very thankful to Trevor and the university. I now have a more efficient website, ready for when we're able to start thinking about holidays again. I also now have a starting point to enable me to create additional forms in the future”.   

For his part, Trevor gained some valuable experience in working online with clients as well as developing his tech skills. He said: “I found this project very useful and helpful. From my side I’ve developed skills with a website builder package that I’ve never used before. It’s also been my pleasure to help a start-up small business move their website on from a simple brochure to something more useful to them and to their potential customers.”

Ash Govind, of Mobile Media Marketing Ltd, said: "“This was an excellent initiative from DMU, and well appreciated by SME’s like mine at a difficult time when we are uncertain about sustainability let alone growth. 

"Aaron was particularly attentive, professional, and understood our needs, and was utterly brilliant with his ideas and facilitating the implementation of the project brief. Thank you guys, you helped us fight another day.”        

Business coach Sandra Pollock said the scheme was "a brilliant way to help and support SMEs in Leicester". She added: "Through this scheme, I have been able to make more progress than I would have done in the lockdown on my own."

Cyber Security student Thomas Davey-Spence worked with law firm Bond Adams on a project exploring the impact of lockdown on law firms.

Senior partner Rafique Patel praised his work, saying: “He will no doubt take great credit for the fact that he has produced work which will actually go live and that he has contributed to that”.

Thomas said being part of the project had not only helped him build new skills, it had helped ‘keep him grounded’ while in isolation. He said: “having something to completely dedicate myself to was very helpful for keeping me grounded during self-isolation, and I found the scheme to be an excellent usage of my time. I would definitely recommend the scheme.”

Sarah Ludden-Roughley, INICIO - Exclusive Private Tuition, said:  “What a fantastic and helpful idea to provide support to local businesses when their entire world has been tipped upside down.

Not only did DMU move quickly to get all of the paperwork in place, they found a brilliant match for us and kept us up to date as they tentatively worked on what would and wouldn't be possible in this uncharted territory. Our volunteer was professional, talented and understanding of how tough things must be for a business affected by the Covid-19 restrictions. We used her skill to promote our online offering, as this was a brand new (but necessary) version of our business model and, as a result, we had no advertising ready for it. Thanks to Jan and DMU, we do now.”

Germain Abdul, a Computer Science graduate, worked with product development firm Food Science Fusion, in Sutton Bonington. She said: “It was a great experience and I was able to polish some of my skills such as communication and leadership/initiative. I was able to learn more skills such as commercial awareness and understanding the fundamentals of an industry for this project and how it works.”

Other projects included:

•    A digital marketing campaign for a tuition company in Market Harborough

•    Creating an online programme for a business coach

•    Digital support for a marketing firm’s customer retention programme

•    Enhancing and developing a website for a local party hire firm

•    Creating a new social media plan to attract new customers and delight existing ones

Amardeep Panaser, career development manager at DMU Works, said the whole team was thrilled with how much the students had been able to help.

He said: “The key for the success of this project was the speed, time and delivery of this project, we got the timings right and therefore were able to meet the needs of local businesses.

“The students have done a tremendous job and importantly, DMU Works has been able to be of real service to SMEs in Leicestershire facing probably one of the toughest times they have ever had to deal with.”

* If you'd like to find out if your business could be supported by DMU students, contact Amardeep here

Posted on Friday 29th May 2020

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