Employers from across Northern Ireland are strengthening global links through an international exchange scheme.
Innovative firms including CDE, Xcell Partners Ltd and Precision Group, have recently taken on 18 international students through IAESTE, (the International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience), a programme managed by the British Council.
Over the course of the summer and beyond, these students, from science and technical disciplines, will complete specialist projects related to their university degrees and in exchange, 21 students from Northern Ireland have secured placements in countries that include Vietnam, Brazil and China.
This is the first year that Xcell Partners Ltd, which specialises in start-up business consultancy, has taken part in the global STEM scheme.
The company, which was formed by CEO Diane Roberts, works with high potential start-up companies that want to achieve accelerated global market growth.
Speaking about the programme at a welcome reception at Belfast Castle last night (Aug 17), Diane said:
“At Xcell Partners Ltd we work with companies that produce innovative ideas or products that are globally scalable – this is why IAESTE is perfect for us. We love working with young people and graduates as it’s a big part of our culture — but also as a business, we need to think and work globally, and by employing international students they give us a completely different perspective.
“Crucially, the students on the programme are at the top of their game and really capable, making them a real asset to our young company.”
This year the firm has taken on two software engineers, David Perez Gonzalez from Spain and Afonso Rodrigues from Portugal. David will be working with the game testing platform, Testify, while Afonso is based with Orca Money, developing a programme for independent financial advisors.
For Diane, both have been extremely flexible and easy to work with.
She said: “It’s important for us to have new DNA in the team, as well as having fresh ideas and outlooks — both of our students have been really dedicated and are here to get real hands-on work experience. We’re delighted to join the programme and look forward to continuing working with IAESTE in the future.”
Also at the event was wet processing equipment company, CDE, who have been part of the programme for several years – taking on students from Bosnia, India, Tunisia and the USA for 2016.
Praising the programme was Marc Jennings, General Manager at CDEnviro Global Ltd.
He said: “IAESTE is getting more and more important to CDE and has been critical in helping us tap into our export trade. With a growing market, we’re struggling to recruit into all areas of our business; such as in Germany, which has a different ethos and pace to that of here.
“International students bring that unique cultural difference, which help us understand different markets and their way of working. They’re also not coming in to the company to do mundane work, but really innovative and exciting stuff, adding real value to the team.
“The students we receive are of a very high calibre and are here to gain real hands-on work experience — in fact, we could do with having them here for more than a year! — so much so, that many of our past students now work across the business, including in Australia and North America."
Also commenting on the programme was Jonathan Stewart, Deputy Director of British Council Northern Ireland, who said: “We are really pleased to have such high calibre international students working with our local employers. These students not only bring their technical and academic credentials to Northern Ireland but also help to internationalise the workplace by providing a taste of other cultures, traditions and languages.
“Their insights provide employers with valuable knowledge and understanding of intercultural differences in doing business which can help when competing in new international markets.”
By hosting a trainee, Northern Ireland businesses are also developing home grown talent. IAESTE works on a reciprocal basis, therefore for every placement offered in Northern Ireland; local students are able to avail of a work placement overseas.
The IAESTE programme runs in more than 80 member countries, with over 4000 traineeships exchanged each year and is the largest organisation of its kind in the world. It is supported by the Department for the Economy in conjunction with local Universities and the British Council.
Northern Ireland students or businesses interested in learning more about the programme can find out more by visiting http://www.britishcouncil.org/iaeste/, http://nireland.britishcouncil.org or following us on Twitter: BCouncil_NI or Facebook. Applications for IAESTE 2017 will open in early autumn.