Work experience in Europe
International work experience is becoming ever more valued, both by candidates and employers. As a result, the range of opportunities in Europe is diversifying, as Jane Vernon Smith discovers.

Employer demand for work experience candidates is, of course, highly dependent on the highs and lows of their various business sectors. In Cork, Ireland, Career Training Internships has lately witnessed a rise in demand from the scientific, digital and alternative energy sectors, reports Christina Gilberti.


"Cork has a strong scientific base, and there is funding being funnelled into this area. Alternative energy is, again, an area where funding is being channelled," she explains, adding, "The surge appears to be steep, and the change very quick."


Over recent years, digital media has been a growth area the world over, and Emanuela Marianecci at Internships Professionals, trading as Internship in Malta, highlights that companies are requesting expertise for web design and web marketing.


Professionals UK, which offers internship opportunities across the UK, has seen a "big year-on-year increase" in demand for social media and digital marketing internships over the past three years - both from companies and from students. "This," observes Bella Cranmore, "is because many managers do not have the time to implement their social media and digital strategies, and are very open to interns assisting, especially as they are part of the digital generation which was brought up with these technologies."


Candidates are keen to fill these openings, with Adrian Butcher, Group Marketing Director at UK-based Twin Group, noting a spike in requests for digital marketing, along with international finance and technology-intensive areas.


Similar to Career Training Internships in Cork, Professionals UK has seen a big increase in engineering and science-related internships, including in the field of biogenetics. Teaching is also growing in popularity, according to Bella, with students showing interest in learning about the use of new technologies and resources in the classroom.


When it comes to supply and demand, organisers consistently report that retail and customer service continue to provide many opportunities, and successfully attract a plethora of candidates.
Urszula Drejak from Education and Training Network in Italy says that funded work experience placements are popular with European students.


"In most cases, students are participants in Erasmus Plus projects, but we also receive students involved in European Social fund projects, such as PON and Mini-Erasmus, or within school-work activities," she says. "Every year we organise work experience for an increasing number of students."


At Twin Group, which recruits for work experience opportunities across a wide range of sectors, Adrian highlights a difference between basic customer service and retail roles, where the emphasis is on English immersion in a relatively undemanding setting, and sector-specific roles, which he says are often favoured by overseas university graduates and undergraduates. "We're increasingly aware of government-linked bodies as part of an almost-global growing trend - the need for young people to acquire employability, business awareness and life-skills as an integral part of their education, not as a bolt-on afterthought," he explains.


"For students with a low level of English," he comments, "retail and hospitality roles are enduringly popular, as they provide the opportunity for them to authentically practise their communication skills." Taking into account the duration of the internship, he says retail also tends to be the sector of choice for short-term involvement of up to four weeks.


Business administration, marketing and retail have similarly remained the most popular sectors for Professionals UK. Thanks to London's reputation as a centre of fashion, the company also continues to see a lot of interest in fashion business, fashion design and pattern cutting.


At Career Training Internships, areas such as administration, business, child care and engineering are the most commonly requested sectors. Meanwhile, with tourism being a mainstay of Malta's economy, it is no surprise that tourism, customer care, hospitality, marketing and sales placements are much in demand. Emanuela says that there has recently also been huge demand from candidates for opportunities involving digital skills.


Tellus Education Group in the UK also reports hospitality as being its most popular sector and Sally Quinlan notes, "The calibre of students and their creative flair continue to increase and amaze our providers each year." Tellus also offers placements in areas as diverse as business administration, social care, mechanics, retail, customer service and agriculture.


Aside from sector-specific tendencies, Bella also highlights a notable trend towards students seeking opportunities outside London. "Traditionally," she says, "London has been the most popular destination, but we have seen a big increase in demand for other cities, such as Brighton, Bristol, York, Manchester, Leeds, Edinburgh and Glasgow. The number-one reason cited is the lower accommodation and living costs."



The right partner
While choosing the right kind of role is important for candidates, they can maximise their chances of securing this by working with an agent that uses a reputable company as an intermediary. Internship organisers work variously with agents, schools, colleges, individual students and other partners, and have different strengths to offer.


For Career Training Internships, the emphasis is on the high level of care for its trainees, as demonstrated by its meet-and-greet service, 24/7 emergency phone line, visits to all trainees and collection of feedback, as well as extra time for those needing additional support. Internships in Malta, an organiser of unpaid internship opportunities, also highlights its hands-on service, with good communication and understanding, as well as the added benefit of offering accommodation with host families screened by the company.


Agents seeking opportunities in the UK will be attracted by the fact that, in Professionals UK, they will need only a single UK partner - one that recruits in over 50 different sectors, says co-owner, Bella Cranmore.


Meanwhile, Twin Group - winner of the coveted StudyTravel Super Star award - highlights its ability to source placements in volume, across a wide range of types. English tuition and accommodation options are also part of the service it offers. While different markets warrant different approaches Adrian Butcher comments, "Students of a similar age from different countries can be observed to vary significantly in their needs and current levels of language attainment; the same can be said for attitudes and expectation of work."

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