INTERNATIONAL trainees from all over the world were welcomed to Belfast last night (Wednesday July 25) to take part in an international traineeship scheme.
The students, from as far afield as Kenya, Ecuador and Korea, are involved in the British Council programme - IAESTE (the International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience) – and will work across Northern Ireland on technical internships throughout the summer and beyond, with placements lasting up to a year.
IAESTE, which is supported and funded in Northern Ireland by the Department for the Economy, will see the international students from science and technical disciplines complete specialist projects related to their university degrees. In exchange, Northern Ireland students will travel to countries including Japan, Russia, China, USA and Vietnam to complete their own technical internships.
Among the local companies who have taken students this year are McFarland Associates Ltd, Precision Processing Services Ltd (PPSL), First Derivatives, Zymplify and Smiley Monroe.
Speaking at the welcome reception on HMS Caroline, Belfast was Dr Rebecca Lutton, Head of Research and Development at McFarland Associates Ltd.
This is the first year the Civil Engineering Company has been part of the programme – taking on Greek student Iro Mytareli - who has spent the last five years at the National Technical University of Athens, specialising in Structural Engineering.
Rebecca has a long history with the programme, having gone on an IAESTE placement to Japan in 2007. Subsequently, on her return, she established the local Northern Ireland IAESTE Committee and is the founding president.
She said: “My placement to Japan was one of the most fantastic experiences of my life and through it; I developed an interest in research. Ultimately, on my return to Northern Ireland, I was dead set on doing a PhD and believe IAESTE cemented my career path.
“IAESTE provides STEM students with the opportunity to acquire technical experience in an international environment and not only enhances their career prospects and skills, but it also widens their global experiences.
“The local IAESTE committee has been welcoming international students to Northern Ireland for the past ten years through cultural events and trips organised throughout the year; including to the Mourne Mountains, Causeway Coast and further afield in the UK and Ireland.
“I’m very proud of my time on IAESTE and hope it long may continue.”
Also speaking at the reception was Jonathan Stewart, Director, British Council Northern Ireland, who welcomed the opportunities IAESTE brought to local and international students, local institutions and employers.
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 students selected from a pool of over 1000 universities from over 90 countries – setting the foundations for future partnerships, links and networks.
“At the same time this reciprocal 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 90 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. Student Applications for IAESTE 2019 will open in early autumn, while for businesses; applications are open all year round.