Students get help to jump through hoops

Updated: 2015-11-27 07:59

By Karen Kwok and Zhang Chunyan(China Daily Europe)

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Tighter visa rules need not deter those who want work experience in UK, consultants say

Consulting services for Chinese students trying to negotiate the regulatory hurdles that stand between them and finding work or intern experience in Britain have become a lucrative business.

To get what is called a Tier 2 skilled workers visa in order to hire an overseas employee in Britain, companies are required to obtain a permit through the Home Office and to prove that the position cannot be filled by a local.

Once they obtain the permit for a skilled worker visa, they need to pay a much higher salary to hire those students, a minimum of 20,800 pounds ($31,400; 29,600 euros) a year at the moment.

"Actually it is difficult for the employers to pay for a license for a new graduate," says Zheng Feifei, a Chinese graduate in London, who says she prefers getting work experience in Britain before returning to China.

"To my mind it is better to first work in the UK even just one or two years then look for a job in China because you can gain international work experience after studying in the UK."

Many Chinese students return to China soon after graduating, but Zheng is one who is turning to companies that offer internship opportunities, interview training, resume reviews and connections to potential employers.

"I want to try," she says. "If finally I can't find any opportunity here, it doesn't matter."

The most popular sectors for Chinese students are finance, interpreting and translation, law and IT, agencies that China Daily talked to say.

NexusGlobe is a London company that offers such services to Chinese students. The company, established in June, offers training to improve students' interview techniques and provides connections to companies.

It is another way for students to improve their employability through short-term work experience in the UK, but unsuitable for students who want a long-term solution, says Peina Sun, founder of NexusGlobe.

"If they want to make money through our scheme it's not suitable. Students can do internships either being paid or unpaid, but the main purpose is to get experience.

"From my own experience, if you have work experience in the UK it is easier for students to find a job when they go back to China."

Consultants such as NexusGlobe also help employers find the right people for their companies, something Sun compares to match-making.

"Companies don't usually have time to do all this work, so they are quite happy for us to look for top-quality talent."

Finding interns through consultants also reduces paperwork for companies, he says.

"Not a lot of companies are willing to sponsor Tier 2 working visa because of the responsibilities, the cost and the difficulties they may face."

It normally takes between one and three months to find an internship if one is in the country, Sun says.

"Sometimes it's possible to score an internship in less than four weeks. It all depends on how hard the individuals work on the interviews."

Carrie Waley, chief executive of Mandarin Consulting, another London consultancy, which has coached Chinese students since 2007, says students should not panic over changes in visa policies.

"My view is that the UK will always let highly skilled international talent work here."

Mandarin Consulting offers Chinese students advice from experienced Western professionals. "There are other companies offering career coaching, but we are supported by bilingual Chinese professionals," Waley says.

There is now a big market for these visa consultation companies, Sun says.

"This is an emerging industry. There's not a lot of competitors at the moment but they are coming up."

While student and work visa policies are being tightened, the government also provides an international internship scheme, endorsed by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills and UK Trade & Investment.

UK companies that are developing or plan to develop business in China can employ Chinese graduates for up to 12 months with a Tier 5 temporary placement visa sponsored under the scheme.

International companies such as Amazon, Jones Lang Lasalle and Moody's have all taken part, says Colin Chen, managing director of the International Student Internship Scheme, which operates the systems.

"It is a way to improve UK-China trade," Chen says. "Many British businesses want to do business with China and they need Chinese students to help break language barriers.

"As the UK and China enter into a golden era of economic collaboration, we believe that the scheme will provide a foundation in providing talent needed for future bilateral development."

Chinese students could also help British businesses understand Chinese business culture and behavior, help build up business contacts in China and help understand Chinese social media, which would eventually deliver business opportunities, Chen says.

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( China Daily European Weekly 11/27/2015 page20)