Employers from across Northern Ireland are strengthening global links through an international exchange scheme.
They include Translink, Armagh Planetarium and CDE Global – and together, they have taken on 20 international students through IAESTE, (the International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience), a programme managed by the British Council.
Through the initiative, these students, from science and technical disciplines, will complete specialist projects related to their university degrees. In exchange, Northern Ireland students have travelled to countries as far afield as Mexico, Kazakhstan, China, Tajikistan, Vietnam and Nepal.
Translink, who have been part of the programme for over 15 years, have taken on Abdulaziz Alharbi, an Electrical Engineering student from Saudi Arabia.
Speaking about the programme at a welcome reception on HMS Caroline, was Translink’s Project Manager, Patrick Doyle.
He said: “IAESTE offers a fresh approach to some very difficult challenges that businesses face. Not only does Abdulaziz get practical work experience, but it’s also an education for all of us at Translink and gives us a more international flavour.
“We have been involved in the programme for a considerable amount of time now, and will continue to do so.”
Mr Doyle, who himself completed IAESTE placements in both Slovenia and Switzerland while at university, also knows that the benefits work both ways.
He said: “The two placements I completed with IAESTE have definitely shaped who I am today. Recently I had to do a work placement for Translink in Spain and ultimately, the programme gave me the confidence and skills to set me up for my time there.”
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.
Commenting on the programme, David Alderdice, Director of British Council Northern Ireland, said: “The British Council recognises the importance of strengthening international connections to help develop Northern Ireland's knowledge economy.
“Through programmes such as IAESTE, local employers and universities are able to benefit from the international experience of high calibre trainees and set the foundations for future partnerships, links and networks. At the same time the programme helps to prepare our local undergraduates for working in a global economy through the experience 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. It is supported by the Department for the Economy in conjunction with local Universities and the British Council. Among the other local companies who have taken students this year are Precision Group and IT placements at the Innovation Centre in our NI Science Park.
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 2018 will open in early autumn.