Two leading Northern Irish firms are encouraging others to take on an international trainee to boost business.
Devenish Nutrition and Michelin Tyres, want local companies to get behind IAESTE — the International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience — a programme managed by the British Council.
IAESTE provides highly motivated and talented graduates from over 80 countries worldwide to support engineering, IT and Industrial companies gain an edge in the marketplace. Through the initiative, businesses hire international trainees for six weeks up to a year, with the potential for trainees to stay on as permanent employees.
Both Michelin and Devenish Nutrition spoke recently about the advantages of the scheme at a business seminar organised by Invest NI.
Devenish Nutrition, which specialises in developing and supplying innovative nutritional solutions to the livestock industry, has taken part in the programme for the past two years and through it, has been able to increase international trade links.
Established in 1952, the Belfast-based firm currently exports to over 25 countries worldwide, and is always seeking to increase its global presence. The firm also has a presence in the USA, where it seeks to replicate the UK operation with two factory sites in Iowa and Minnesota, and nutritionists also cover Europe, the Middle East and parts of Africa.
Speaking at the event was Deborah McGann, Human Resources Manager at Devenish Nutrition.
She said: “Devenish Nutrition is continuously looking at ways to tap into new markets, and IAESTE enables us to do just this. Through the programme we can match the trainees to our needs and requirements, and this year welcomed agriculture engineers Nazli Selale Yigiter from Turkey, and Kanda Marysellah Naswa from Kenya, to the firm.
“The trainees, who are with us for the year, are well-qualified, provide a great buzz around the firm, motivate other staff and come up with great new ideas.
“International links are developed through the scheme, and we are still in contact with last year’s trainees, one of which is now working for both ourselves and one of our customers in Kenya. IAESTE has only been a good thing for our business.”
Also present was Gary Smith, Project Co-ordinator at Michelin’s Ballymena plant, who himself took part in the global exchange scheme in 1996.
He said: “IAESTE offers a fresh approach to some very difficult challenges that businesses face. It brings the best out of a firm and helps elevate a business’ performance, while also giving businesses access to a worldwide skills pool; which can invigorate a company in the summer months.”
This year Michelin took on two trainees through the programme; engineering students, Georg Sailor from Austria and Alejandro Pitarch Olivas from Spain. They worked on specialised projects, which included 3D imaging and product design, improving the efficiency of the business.
Michelin was so impressed by the standard of their trainees that they have taken on Alejandro, who studied at the University of Valencia, as a full-time employee. He now works on site as a graduate engineer.
According to Mr Smith, his skills have been invaluable to the company.
He said: “ During the summer we had a team of experts from the Spanish city of Aranda de Duero come over to find out how we could improve the workflow between factories – thankfully Alejandro was on hand to help, and we were able to share information we hadn’t been able to previously. Both plants have now developed better links and we hope to work more closely in the future.”
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.
Mr Smith said: “Any business that is reluctant to take on an international trainee should just go for it. Since it is a reciprocal agreement the UK economy benefits as a whole and gives our young people the international and practical experience they need to enter into the world of work.
“We’ve had an extremely positive experience with IAESTE and would recommend it to other businesses.”
For companies interested in hosting an international trainee, the process is simple. IAESTE takes care of visa and work permits, with the only cost to businesses being the trainee’s salary – which must adhere to the UK’s minimum wage.
Established in 1948, IAESTE is supported by the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL) in conjunction with local Universities and the British Council. Companies such as CDE Ireland Ltd, Kainos, SAP, Seagate Technologies and Translink have previously taken part in the programme.
Businesses interested in offering placements through IAESTE should visit http://www.britishcouncil.org/iaeste/ — deadline for applications is Wednesday, December 10, 2014. For more information on programmes available through British Council Northern Ireland visit nireland.britishcouncil.org.