Twenty-two international students from 15 different countries have been welcomed to Northern Ireland at a reception held at Riddel Hall, Queen’s University Belfast, yesterday.
Hailing from countries as diverse as Slovenia, Brazil and the United States, they’re here as part of the global exchange scheme IAESTE, (the International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience), which is managed by the British Council.
The programme, which is supported by the Department for Employment and Learning, sees students from all scientific and technical disciplines work across Northern Ireland throughout the summer and beyond. In exchange, 16 students from Northern Ireland will travel to 16 countries worldwide, including China, Hungary and Switzerland.
Among the local companies who have taken students this year are CDE Ireland Ltd, Michelin, Devenish Nutrition, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, Seagate Technologies and Translink.
Speaking at the Reception, Derek Baker, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Employment and Learning, welcomed the opportunities IAESTE brought to local and international students, local institutions and employers.
Mr Baker said: “In 2012 the Department for Employment and Learning published Graduating to Success, the higher education strategy for Northern Ireland. The strategy identifies work experience and international experience as key ingredients of high quality higher education. These experiences are also highly regarded by employers. We have been working with our universities and colleges to ensure that internationalisation is embedded in higher education and that every student in Northern Ireland has the opportunity to undertake an international mobility programme.
“The IAESTE programme aligns with our policies and addresses many of our priorities. I commend the programme not only for its international dimension but also for its focus on science, technology, engineering and maths - STEM related subjects. This aspect is vital to the development of our economy.”
Also speaking about the programme was Jonathan Stewart, Deputy Director of British Council Northern Ireland.
He said: “The British Council recognises the economic benefits of developing stronger relationships between Northern Ireland and other countries.”
“Through mobility programmes such as IAESTE, local employers and universities are able to benefit from the experience of high calibre international trainees and set the foundations for future partnerships, links and networks. At the same time the programme provides our local undergraduates with the inter-cultural skills and experience for working in a global economy through the knowledge and skills they obtain from their international placements.”
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.
Northern Ireland students or businesses interested in learning more about the programme can find out more by visiting http://www.britishcouncil.org/iaeste/ or at http://nireland.britishcouncil.org. Applications for IAESTE 2016 will open in early autumn.