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British Students Flock to Intern in China

14 June 2012

Hundred of British students are heading to China this summer to intern in Beijing and Shanghai as intense competition for summer internships in the UK encourages students to look abroad.

82% of businesses see experience and skills gained during internships as the single most important consideration when recruiting graduates, according to the Confederation of British Industry. It is therefore unsurprising that summer internships are today viewed as a must-have for any student hoping to secure graduate careers in banking, law, professional services, and increasingly many other sectors.

Now, summer internships are going global. A growing number of students are jetting off to complete their summer internships abroad, driven overseas by the desire to stand out from the crowd, fierce competition for domestic internships, and a wish to combine work experience with travel.
Given its booming economy China has become popular as a destination to do this. London based consultancy CRCC Asia run the leading China Internship Program sending students to Beijing and Shanghai to intern in Chinese or international companies, and it has seen a rapid rise in the numbers of participants over recent years with numbers exploding from 250 participants in 2009 to 1000 in 2011. This year the company forecasts it will send over 1,500 students from around the globe to intern in China.

“Having initially tried and failed to secure an internship in the UK, I decided to apply to CRCC Asia for an internship in Beijing”, explains Neal Fantom, a student at the University of Edinburgh who participated in the China Internship Program last summer, “It may well be one of the best decisions I will ever make in my entire career. The working and social experience far surpass anything I could have hoped to have gained back in the UK.”

With Chinese companies prizing Western education, making the tea is the last thing the students will be doing; interns are usually given a greater level of responsibility than they could hope to have interning within the UK. “You are definitely thrown in at the deep end,” exclaimed Marketing and Advertising student Hannah Clark who interned in the Beijing office of an international communications agency, “but that makes for a great experience and you learn a lot.”

“Now that internships are the norm, students are eager to gain work experience that will make them stand out from the crowd,” says Laura Joyce, UK General Manager for CRCC Asia, “Our program alumni tell us that during job interviews employers are most interested in their internship in China, over their degree or any UK based experience.”

Internships, usually undertaken in the summer before the final year of a student’s degree are now an established part of the traditional university experience. The major graduate recruiters in banking, law and professional services all have the schemes aimed at helping them gauge the suitability of candidates at an early stage, providing interns with a taste of what working in their industry will mean, and enhancing the skills that they will need for future employment.

With rising graduate unemployment – 24.8% of 21 year old graduates are unemployed according the Office for National Statistics – pressure to secure career specific work experience whilst at university has never been greater. The Law Gazzette recently reported that there were 1000 applications for only 70 student internship positions available with law firm Addleshaw Goddard.

With such fierce competition for internships in the UK, and the East able to provide the opportunities students want, the old adage “go west, young man” may need to be rethought.