When it comes to deciding where to undertake a work placement overseas, students and agents in some countries are largely constrained by the visa arrangements that exist for their nationality in various countries. In regions where visa restrictions between countries are non-existent, for example in the EU, work experience opportunities often occur in neighbouring countries due to convenience.
Gabriella Perfetti from Auriga agency in Italy says that her clients wanting to undertake work experience overseas usually choose to go to the UK. “It has been the most required destination for decades and the trend does not seem to change,” she says. “As an English speaking country it is closer to Italy than the USA and Canada and cheap if we consider the low cost of flying and the present exchange rate.” She adds, “Many students would like to go to the USA or Australia but it is very hard to stay there for a long time without finding a paid job since they are expected to get a special working visa [rule since changed in Australia].”
In France, Katrin Fischer from Inter Sejours says that the preferred destinations for their clientele are the UK and Spain. “These countries are very close to France and therefore the trip is cheaper,” she says. However, Fischer notes that the trend towards staying close to home changes when it comes to volunteer programmes. “In this field, Latin America is the preferred destination,” she says. “In this case the participants are willing to be farther away. They want to discover foreign countries, languages, cultures, people etc.”
Certain nationalities may also benefit from special agreements between countries, which dictate that nationals have reciprocal work rights. Eriko Iwasa from ACE Nagoya in Japan says that their clients go to Australia, Canada and New Zealand to undertake work placements “because these countries accept Japanese students as working holiday makers”. She adds that the proximity of Australia and New Zealand to Japan mean that Japanese students are welcomed into some jobs in these countries. “Many Japanese visit these countries so students can get some work positions [in] Japanese customer services,” she relates.
The availability and range of jobs on offer can also influence the popularity of some work experience destinations. In this respect, the UK comes out on top, according to Mohammed Zakir Hossain from the South Asian International Education and Language Travel Association, based in the UK. “Most students like the UK for work experience courses as there are huge student job opportunities in London and other metropolitan cities,” he says.
However, Hossain predicts that the popularity of the UK may be in some jeopardy when immigration changes are introduced in November 2008 (see left). “Many UK-bound students who were [planning to do] a work experience programme are now planning [to travel to] a destination in Europe or New Zealand,” he says.
Market changes can also affect where students go to undertake a work placement, as Altagracia Pimentel from ODTE in the Dominican Republic testifies. Previously the preferred destination for ODTE’s students was the USA due to its proximity and low cost. However, this is currently changing, according to Pimentel. “We have many [new] agents in the last year. The market now is very competitive and we are a small country. The US market has less employers and every year we have more and more problems to find a good job.”
Pimentel plans to expand the range of destinations for work experience students in the future, although outside circumstances often dictate where this is practical. “We try to open our exchange programme to England and Australia but it is not easy for the visa arrangement,” she says. “We think France will be a popular destination for our students because they can practise the French language and also England [as] they can earn a salary in a strong currency.”
Perfetti also says that work experience destinations are likely to change in the future and points to the working holiday programmes offered by Canada and New Zealand as having an influence on the market. She adds, “One country in particular is increasing its programmes [and that is] Malta. It is a very nice holiday resort for most of the year, quite safe and enjoyable. We are promoting it also because there are so many chances to study in the morning and go to work until late.”
Other agencies predict that work experience programmes will become more widespread and will be available worldwide in the future. Hossain lists New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Italy and Ireland as new work experience destinations for his students, while Fischer says, “In the future years, I think that Asia could be a country that welcomes many people.”
All change in the UK
The UK is currently overhauling its immigration procedures and changes are being introduced in stages during 2008 and 2009. After November 2008, people who would previously have been applying for a visa under the training and work experience category, as a voluntary worker or under the working holidaymaker scheme, will have to apply under the new temporary worker category, in tier five of the visa system, which consists of five different categories.
Visas will be awarded through a points-based system, similar to that used by Australia, and applicants will have to gain enough points to be eligible for a visa. Applicants in tier five will also have to apply for a certificate of sponsorship from a licensed sponsor, who will be liable for the students while they are in the country.
While it is impossible to say what effect this will have on the work experience market in the UK, Mohammed Zakir Hossain from the South Asian International Education and International Travel Association says that it is already affecting bookings to the country. “In 2006 and 2007, most of our students selected destinations in the UK and Canada for work experience related courses. In 2008, students are diverting to New Zealand and the European market,” he says.