Breakthrough Talent Overview

Attracting and retaining high quality people is a challenge faced by many fast growth SMEs, who always need skilled and innovate people.

Breakthrough Talent brings together bright and highly motivated graduates and undergraduates looking for commercial experience, with ambitious businesses that need talented and driven individuals to plug a skills gap in their business.

You could gain access to a huge pool of talent from within the university community, while graduates and undergraduates (interns) have the opportunity to test their knowledge and skills in a fast-growth business – an environment where they can see their work make a difference.


  • Advertise your vacancy once, via a central portal that 76 UK universities can access.
  • Plug any skills gaps, while providing meaningful commercial experience to interns.
  • Placements are often project-based, which means there is potential for them to form the basis of a student dissertation.
  • Placements have led to a number of permanent job offers since the initiative began.
  • How it works

Job roles and descriptions are listed on a central portal that is accessible to our 76 universities, and when the applications have been received, you can draw up a shortlist and interview candidates.

Placements typically last for three months with Santander and the business funding the placement, in order to provide a salary for the successful candidate.

To date, almost 2,000 interns have been matched with business opportunities within UK SMEs.

From placement to permanent role 

Fashion retailer Wall Luxury Essentials employed an intern for an HR project that formed a key part of the business’s growth plan. After a three-month placement, their intern was offered a full-time position.

Publishing and consultancy firm Mare Nostrum also used the internship initiative for a field sales and marketing project. Linguistic graduate Francesca Pollard was appointed, which gave her the opportunity to use her language skills in a professional context, as well as providing her with solid commercial experience. Following the three-month internship, Mare Nostrum took Francesca on full-time.

Multi award-winning ethical fashion company Pants to Poverty took on Gabrielle Powell, a postgraduate student studying for an MSc in Development Studies. Gabrielle’s three-month internship enabled her to put theory from her studies into practice. She also benefitted from developing an understanding of working within a social enterprise.

Breakthrough Talent also benefits business owners, introducing you to business mentors. These veteran professionals can offer experience, expertise and a valuable third-party perspective on business practices.

How to apply

If you’d like to take advantage of Breakthrough Talent, you can register your interest by visiting or the Santander Universities SME Internship programme.


Where Next?

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