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September 2005 issue

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Working in Ireland

Taking a language course and then putting new language skills to use in a work placement is becoming increasingly popular, and Ireland has a range of such options. We profile a selection of courses offering paid and unpaid placements.

Dorset College has 22 years of experience in placing students in work experience and also permanent jobs," relates Hugh Hughes at Dorset College in Dublin, confirming that work experience is a well-established programme for some language training providers in Ireland.

There are, however, plenty of newcomers to this growing market sector who have generally entered it in the last few years because of requests from their clients and agents. At Cork Language Centre International, Managing Director, Odile Migieu, relates that they first offered their work experience programme in 1999, due to demand from our agents, while Living English in Dun Laoghaire set up its course last year.

And according to Barry Crossen at Dublin School of English, offering English tuition and work options for overseas students is still an expanding sector that many schools in the country have not ventured into yet. We have found not many institutions in Ireland are offering these programmes so we actively promote Ireland as an ideal destination for both [paid] work and study and [unpaid] internships, he says.

Ireland's booming economy was a motivation for Eden School of English in Dublin to move into the sector, along with the increasing demand for foreign workers, according to Ann Marie Carroll at the school. This is reflected in both the internships and unpaid placements offered – there is increasing demand for business interns and paid employees, especially in the fields of hospitality and catering and retail. Carroll says, Eden School of English decided to offer work experience courses because of its strong links with employers, the growing employment throughout Ireland and the increasing demand for foreign nationals' valuable skills in the workplace.

All schools in the sector offer students the chance to get their English up to scratch and then undertake unpaid business placements, commonly referred to as an internship, while some schools also offer paid work options, and this is a more modern twist. Joe Solomon at Aspect College Dublin reports, We are launching a new paid placement programme this year for European Union (EU) candidates in the hotel and catering sector, and we anticipate a lot of interest in this, particularly from Spanish and French students.

Most schools that are active in this sector stress their links with industry and the attention given to ensure appropriate placements, especially when a career is the main motivation, rather than earning some money. We offer a respected internship programme with a range of placements in a variety of work sectors, explains Solomon. We monitor our students' progress carefully while they are on their internship to ensure their satisfaction. At Alpha College of English in Dublin, Marie Shortt says that they stay in touch with students during a placement and adds, We help students with their cv and interviews and coach them on general expectations of employers.

Most companies insist that students attend an interview with the host company prior to an internship placement to ensure both parties are suited, so placement is not guaranteed in a particular company, although fields of interest are accommodated. At English Language Institute in Dublin, Natalie Douglas says, Generally, a student is asked to specify their top three preferences for work placement. We rarely exclude any employment sectors and always try to suit the student's first preference, where possible.

Students might not be undertaking advanced tasks, but speaking English and working in a new business environment is an enriching experience that encourages increased English usage, gives the student business knowledge in an industry sector and confidence in the workplace. At Alpha College, a specific member of staff is employed to ensure that students get the most out of their placement. We will not accept a student for this programme unless we feel that there is a very good chance they will be placed in a company suited to their qualifications, says Shortt. She adds that many of their candidates have been offered full-time jobs after their internship in Ireland.

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