Fri 05 / 07 / 19
Business solutions: Taking on an international student
Running a business can be fraught with challenges, particularly for small business owners, who are often short of time and resources. Small budgets and lack of stability can make it difficult to combat a high workload by simply taking on more staff.
In this blog series, we’re exploring the alternatives available to business owners looking for a more flexible solution to permanent employment.
So, why take on an international student?
Leigh is MD of The Blue Penguin Company, a family run business that offers bespoke educational, cultural and corporate programmes to clients of all ages and nationalities.
She lists numerous benefits to taking on an international student as a business owner; a fresh perspective to the running of your organisation, an extra pair of hands to help with a project you might be struggling with, an extra ambassador for your brand. You may even end up with a full-time employee at the end of the internship.
Leigh says ‘An internship is a great way to see how much potential an intern or recent graduate has in the field. You’ll get to see their skills and work ethic as an intern- and might choose to bring them on as a paid employee down the line.’
Rebecca works for Stages UK, a provider of unpaid work experience for European and overseas students in the South of England. We asked her to walk us through the process of matching an International student with a business.
‘Most of the companies we work with have heard about us through word of mouth, or through other companies who have had an intern from overseas. We also approach companies directly sometimes, if we get a very specific request from a prospective intern.’
Stages UK are rigorous in ensuring they match the right intern with the right business.
‘We always go out to meet the new businesses in their workplace and talk to them about what they need and how they see the intern fitting in. We then match the students to the company by looking at their CV and covering letter, seeing what skills and experience they have, and the sectors they have requested on their booking forms. Some companies request a skype interview before deciding whether to accept an intern, and we are always happy to set that up.’
With a successful placement ensured, why don’t more businesses take on international students as interns?
Leigh says the most common barrier they face when trying to secure an internship is that companies, particularly small ones, often think they are too busy to make time for a young person in their organisation. But with planning and a little preparation, this doesn’t have to be the case at all.
She also states that language is rarely a barrier, as all the interns at The Blue Penguin Company undergo a thorough application process which involves an English test. In order to pass, they must achieve a minimum level of upper Intermediate English.
After you’ve secured your student placement, what’s next? We asked Leigh and Rebecca for their top tips for helping an international student to settle in.
Leigh suggests including an element of time outside the office to introduce them to the city.
‘Spend an hour or so wandering around the North Laine or the seafront and take them for a coffee, giving them a real sense of what the city has to offer.’
‘Brighton is a gem of a city,’ says Leigh. ‘It has a vibe like no other, and every student we have ever had take part in one of our programmes has been very sad to leave.’
Stages help their students to get settled with a welcome meeting, where they provide them with information about Brighton. They also connect their students with other interns, and invite them to participate in the ELC Social Programme.
Both The Blue Penguin Company and Stages UK match their students up with host families, giving them a taster of family life in England, an opportunity to practise their language skills, and further support getting settled in the city.
If you would like to receive some impartial information on how an intern could benefit your business, please contact Leigh at The Blue Penguin Company.
For more information about Stages UK, visit http://www.stagesuk.com/.
Thanks to Leigh Otterson-Walter and Rebecca Harrison for contributing towards this blog.
Stay tuned for our next blog to find out more about the Sussex Innovation Centre's Catalyst Programme.
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