February 2011 issue

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Professional placements

Visa changes have had a positive or negative impact on professional work placement programmes over the last year, depending on the country. However, most providers are in agreement that the sector will grow in the future. Bethan Norris reports.

The global work and travel sector has faced challenges over the last 12 months, either through the economic downturn – which has meant that travellers have less money to pay for their overseas programmes and businesses are less likely to focus their resources and attention towards an internship programme – or stricter immigration requirements. Yet, work placement providers are fairly unanimous in highlighting the growth potential in this sector.

Timothy Wells, President of INTERNeX International Exchange in Vancouver, BC, Canada, says, “Work and Travel is still in its adolescence as an industry – not quite infancy – but there are certainly larger players consolidating and ‘out of industry’ players looking carefully at this sector. This industry is diverse and will increasingly professionalise in the coming years as universities, governments and of course, candidates, become more refined and the market matures.”

One trend that appears to be universal among work and travel providers is the growing demand from clients for professional internship programmes, whether they are paid or unpaid. Letitia Hatanaka from Travellers Worldwide, based in the UK, says, “[Professional placements] have definitely become more popular over recent years, probably due to the current economic struggle in securing jobs/promotions in today’s competitive market.” She adds, “We’ve responded to demands for internship opportunities by providing more types of internship, in more sectors and making them as reasonable as possible for people looking to get experience in their chosen field.”

Demand for more specific internships is on the increase, agrees Janet Gilman from ETCi in the UK. “There has been an increase in specialised internships in engineering for example, or specific requests relating to vocational areas,” she says. An increased focus on vocational education in some countries could also be boosting demand. Jayne Stroud from The Training Partnership in the UK notes that German numbers have overtaken Spanish and Italians recently. “This is possibly due to the increased number of vocational training apprenticeship opportunities being offered in Germany,” she says. “As with the Dutch, in most German vocational training colleges there is a compulsory period of practical training; this element of the training programme is normally undertaken in another country.”

Chad Robertson from CDS International in New York, USA, also points to heightened competition in the global job market motivating potential clients. He says, “Employers are looking for international skills in their future employees. They are also wanting a current workforce that understands all angles a company may maintain, including international branches and intercultural understanding when closing a deal.” Robertson says he has noticed that the availability of placements is picking up again. While companies were cutting back on their internship offers during the recession, “we have been seeing them added once again during the past couple of months”, he reports.

The nationalities of travellers embarking on work and travel programmes is changing. The UK has suffered a decline in non-EU students after immigration changes were introduced in 2010 (see left). However, in Canada, immigration changes have had a more positive effect. Wells says, “We have seen increased participation from countries for which Canada has now negotiated bilateral agreements on youth mobility: specifically Czech Republic, Spain and in the near future Mexico, Brazil and Argentina.”

Elsewhere, in Australia, Diana Pilling from Australian Internships notes that students from Latin America are increasing in numbers. “Countries such as Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, Paraguay and Costa Rica, whose students typically applied for work experience programmes in the USA and Canada, have shown an upward trend for internship programmes in Australia.”

Melissa Hickok from Center for Cultural Interchange and Greenheart in the USA says that they have recently launched a long-term internship programme in response to increasing demand. “[Our largest nationalities] have consistently been Russia, Turkey, Ukraine and China,” she says, adding, “We have seen an increase in Chinese applicants due to demand within the country for work and travel/exchange programmes.”

Visa issues in the UK

Recent changes to the UK’s visa system have changed the face of the work placement sector in the UK. Non-EU students can only undertake a work placement that is less than 50 per cent of the length of their course and must also be studying for an NVQ level three qualification or higher.

For many work placement providers in the UK, therefore, the focus is very much on European students. Karen Bowring from Professionals UK says, “90 per cent of non-EU business has disappeared to other countries where they still have possibilities for the students to work, whether paid or unpaid in a placement. We are doing more government sponsored placements from European countries as they are trying to support their young people who may be unable to get employment in their home countries.”

Neil Pick from Tellus Group says that they no longer work with non-EU students due to the problems with visas. “There are too many risks such as losing our [highly trusted sponsor] status.” Jayne Stroud from The Training Partnership blasts the visa changes as detrimental to the industry as a whole: “Outside of the EU, visa issues have hampered the work element of work and travel programmes and caused a serious decline within the industry generally.”

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English Australia  
NEAS Australia  
Quality English  

Alphe Conferences  
IALC International  

Dr. Walter GmbH  

Student Marketing  

Malta Tourism

Impact English
Bond University  
Carrick Institute of Education  
English Australia  
Language Studies International  
NEAS Australia  
Pacific Gateway International College  
International College  
University Of
Newcastle nbsp; 
University of
New South Wales  
University of

International College  
International Language
Schools of Canada  

Plato Educational
Services Ltd  
The Language

City of London
Education Group - HO  
House London  
Kaplan International Colleges  
London School of Business & Finance  
Malvern House College London  
Quality English  
Queen Ethelburga's College  
Sedbergh School  
St Giles Colleges  
Study Group  
University of Essex - International Academy  

AGISEFE - Université de Savoie  
Alliance Française Paris Ile de France  

F+U Academy  
Goethe Institut  
inlingua Berlin  
International House Berlin - Prolog  

Eden College  

Clubclass Residential Language School  
EC English Language Centre  
Malta Tourism Authority  

Cape Town School of English  
EC Cape Town  
EF International School  
English Language School of Cape Town  
Eurocentres Cape Town  
inlingua Language Training Centre Cape Town  
Jeffreys Bay Language School  
Good Hope Studies  
International House Cape Town  
Interlink School of Languages  
Kurus English CC  
LAL Cape Town  
Language Teaching Centre   
South African School of Language  

Malaga Si  

EF Language Colleges Ltd  

Global Immersions Inc  
Global Language Institute  
Ross School (The)  
University of California Riverside  
University of California San Diego  
University of Nebraska at Lincoln  
Zoni Language Centers  

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