November 2010 issue

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Valuable experience

Demand for language and work experience programmes is rising but for providers to remain successful they must ensure that they can deliver exactly what the student wants. Gillian Evans reports.

Language courses that include a work placement are growing in popularity, especially those that provide valuable experience of international business. Carol Gardezi at Cork English College in Ireland comments, “We perceive this as a growing market as candidates use the placement to gain valuable experience in their preferred area of work and this will give them an edge over other candidates in the job market.”

Emil Grapa at Tandem in Spain, where five per cent of enrolments are for their internship programme, agrees. “We have noticed lately the increasing number of students interested in [our internship] programme. The reason could be, among others, that through this programme the student can improve his/her level of Spanish, can achieve work experience and at the same time may get used to the Spanish culture and experience an authentic working environment.”

Broadly speaking, there are two different types of work programmes: the paid work placement and the unpaid internship, both of which often include a period of language studies. Paid placements are generally in the hospitality industry, enabling students to earn some money while practising the language. Internships are unpaid and in an area of work specific to the student’s future career or study plans, and provide students with valuable experience to enhance their CVs.

Describing their internship programme, Grapa says, “[Our] programme includes a four-week Spanish course and then an internship in a Tandem school or in a company. The students will be placed in companies according to their abilities, interests and field of study and/or professional experience. This is an opportunity not only to improve language skills, but to also gain professional experience in today’s international workplace.”

It is this real experience of international business that is important, as Robert Jago, Director of Vancouver Internships in Canada, points out. “Internship programmes, if done right, give students the first real taste of what they will be doing in their future careers. They let them know if they’re on the right path – and if so, they energise them for the rest of their studies and for their future job search. They also aide that future job search by adding career-relevant experience to their CVs and developing contacts which will help them move to the front of the line, ahead of other less proactive jobseekers.”

But an internship programme can only be as successful as the placement itself, and students who have paid a premium price for their programme have high expectations. Carlos Pastor Chan Santana from AIP Languages in Spain claims that they offer students a highly professional placement service to match their exact needs, something they would be hard pushed to do by themselves. “Students trust we will do the best for them and we will find the right match [for them],” he says. “[We arrange a] good internship where they use their skills and improve their knowledge and not only answer the phone or do photocopying.”

At Vancouver Internships in Canada, the main industry sectors of interest to international students include marketing and engineering, although there is also demand for placements in law, finance, IT and graphic design. “Finance has seen a big increase over things like IT or graphic design, which we used to see a lot of,” recounts Jago. Internship programmes can also allow those students from countries where the host destination may have tight visa regulations regarding work, to undertake work while there, as Helen Murphy at Regency College in the UK relates. “[Our internship] course is very popular with non-EU students as they would not be able to work the same hours on a normal course as tightening of the visa regulations means they can only work 10 hours per week.”

Recent changes in the UK visa regulations have meant that the internship sector has had to adapt. Now, non-EU students cannot undertake a placement for more than 50 per cent of the course, and they also need to work towards an NVQ level 3 qualification. While this has not affected demand for Regency College’s internship programme, they have had to amend their course. “Before the change we used to just teach English and then the students did their placement,” says Murphy. “The course did change quite a lot – although we still provide language support the courses work towards an NVQ level 3 course in work skills plus from Edexcel.”

Internships are popular with a wide cross-section of nationalities. Murphy reports most interest from Thai and Nepalese students, while Grapa in Spain says they have high demand for enrolments from Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria and the USA. “We have noticed a change in the last number of years,” she continues, “especially after the accession of various states to the European Union in 2004 and 2007. [In addition] we have agreements with universities in Italy and we have had Italian interns.”

At Vancouver Placements, internships and work experience programmes are most popular among Swiss, Germans, Mexicans, Taiwanese, Koreans, Japanese, Americans and Brazilians. “This is a change over past years,” reports Jago, “when UK students made up the majority of work experience applicants. Canadian visa rules changed this year and now require any British working holidaymaker to go through BUNAC/SWAP – effectively killing the market for everyone else. On the flip side, the opening of new internship and work experience visas for most of Europe has seen a lot of new enquiries coming from Spain and the Baltics.”

Jago believes agencies have a crucial role to play in the continued rise of internships on the international market. “We’d like to see agencies making more connections at colleges and universities in their home cities,” he says. “We’d also love to work with an agency which is web-savvy and which is open to using our online tools to more effectively market our programmes. A lot of agencies are really ‘old school’ and stick to brochures and a static website. It’s surprising to see how many don’t even have a blog or Facebook page. It’s like they’re marketing to 40-year-olds!”

Industry sources are unanimous in their forecasts for the future of the internship market. Demand will continue to grow, but supply will also depend on government regulations. In addition, the Internet may alter the way students look for jobs. “Free online tools like Craigslist [a website that has classified listings that include jobs] will become more and more well-known with students and will continue to degrade the market for paid work experience placements,” asserts Jago. “If we want to hold our own in this market, let alone grow, we need to give students significant added value.”

Making sure it works

When a service is paid for the customer expects to get good value for money. In the case of work placements and internships, students are paying a premium price for their language and work package and therefore expect the best.

Carlos Pastor Chan Santana at AIP Languages in Spain believes that to ensure that students find their ideal work placements, they need to be thoroughly counselled by an agent. “Agencies can help [by providing accurate information] about the programmes, knowing the activities and what the student will do during the internship. Also communicating to us, the real goals of the student, then we will try to find the best company for them.”

When students study at the Centre of English Studies (CES) in Ireland, the school continually monitors the students to ensure they are fully prepared for their work placement. “When the students arrive [at CES] they are carefully assessed by our staff,” explains Joseph Cochrane, CES Marketing Executive. “Weekly meetings take place while the student is studying in the school so that we can see the progress they are making.”

Students who take an internship programme through Cork English College in Ireland are also monitored during their placements. “The placement candidate always works under supervision and must be given training prior to carrying out his/her duties,” says Carol Gardezi at the school. “The student should be integrated into the company and be included in meetings.”

Another important aspect of a successful work placement is ensuring that only companies serious about providing relevant work experience host international students. Vancouver Internships in Canada has dedicated host recruitment staff who, according to the company’s Director Robert Jago, help maintain the quality of placements and ensure the level of service is upheld during the placements themselves. “Host recruitment is responsible for recruiting and vetting host companies to ensure they meet all standards. We reject about 50 per cent of all companies applying to host,” he explains.

Contact any advertiser in this issue now

The following language schools, associations and accommodation providers advertised in the latest edition of Language Travel Magazine. If you would like more information on any of these advertisers, tick the relevant boxes, fill out your details and send.






International Students House  

British Council  
English Australia  
Groupement FLE  
International House World Organisation  
IALC International  
Languages Canada / Langues Canada  
MEI Ireland  
Neas Australia  
Quality English  

Globus Education Agency  
IEFT- International Education Fairs of Turkey  

Cambridge Esol  

Dr. Walter GmbH  
Student Guard Insurance  

LTM Digital  
Student Marketing  

Cyprus Tourist Office  
Malta Tourism Authority  

Twin Group  

Academies Australasia  
Bond University  
Browns English Language School  
Carrick Institute of Education  
La Trobe University  
Language Studies International  
Neas Australia  
Pacific Gateway International College  
Shafston International College  
Universal English College (Global Village Sydney)  
University of Tasmania  
University of Western Australia  
University of Western Sydney College  

Ecela - Latin Immersion  

Ceran Lingua International  

Berlitz Canada   
Bow Valley College  
Braemar International College  
Camosun College  
Capilano University  
College Platon  
East Coast School of Languages  
English Bay College  
English School of Canada  
Eurocentres Canada  
Geos North America  
Global Village  
Guard.me Insurance  
International Language School of the YMCAs Quebec  
LSC Language Studies Canada  
National School of Languages  
Niagara College  
Ottawa International Student Programmes (OISP)  
Queen's University  
Saint Mary's University  
School District No. 42 Maple Ridge & Pitt Meadows  
Stewart College of Languages  
St Giles Colleges  
Study Abroad Canada  
Thompson Rivers University  
Vancouver English Centre  
VanWest College  

Cyprus Tourist Office  
Language Conquests  
The Language Explorer  
Xenion High School  

Tandem Santiago  

Mandarin House  

Intensa Spanish Language School  

Study Team Cuba  

IH Cairo  

Active Learning  
British Study Centres  
Bury Language School  
Cambridge Education Group  
English Language Centre Brighton & Hove  
English Studio  
Excel English Language School  
Hampstead School of English  
Hove College  
International House London  
INTO University Partnerships  
Kaplan International Colleges  
King's Colleges  
LAL Language Centres   
Language in Group  
Malvern House College London  
Quality English  
Queen Ethelburga's College  
Sedbergh School  
Spinnaker College  
St Clare's Oxford  
St Giles Colleges  
Study Group  
TUI Language   
Twin Group  
University of Essex - International Academy  
Wimbledon School of English  

Accent Francais  
Alpha B - Institut Linguistique  
College International de Cannes  
Ecole PERL  
Ecole Suisse Internationale  
Education En France  
Institut de Langue et de Culture Françaises - ILCF  
Langue Onze Toulouse  
Le Franc Parler   
LSF Montpellier  
Lyon Bleu International  
Media Langues Caraibes   
Paris Langues / Club CEI des 4 Vents  

GLS Sprachenzentrum  
International House Berlin - Prolog  
F & U Academy of Languages   

Media Langues Caraibes  

Academia de Espanol Probigua  

Cork English College /Language & Activity Holidays  
Dublin International Foundation College  
Galway Cultural Institute  
Horner School of English  

Alpha School of English  
Clubclass Residential Language School  
EC English Language Centre  
English Language Academy  
Feltom (Via Malta Tourism Authority)  

Habla Ya Language Center  

Derzhavin Institute  

EAC Language Centres and Activity Camps  
University of Stirling  

CLIC-IH Seville   
Malaca Instituto - Club Hispanico SL  
Malaga Si  
Inturjoven Spanish Courses  
Pamplona Learning Spanish Institute   

EF Language Colleges Ltd  
ESL Ecole Suisses de Langues  
Eurocentres International  

Hargrave Military Academy  
Julian Krinsky Camps & Programs  
Language Consultants International  
University of California Riverside  
University of San Diego  
Zoni Language Centers  

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