espa-alexBath-based European Student Placement Agency (ESPA) works with students from the EU, providing them with 6-month internships within business.

Its aim is to support UK-based SMEs (small to medium sized enterprises) by providing them with successful students and graduates at a very low cost, whilst also improving the experience for EU students, who are more likely to have to find an internship placement as part of their degree.

The ESPA takes care of the whole process, from recruiting and initial interviewing of the student candidates for the roles available in UK businesses, to helping the students to find suitable accommodation in the UK. We caught up with ESPA’s business developer Alexandre Métivier to find out more about the organisation.

TechSPARK: What’s the idea behind ESPA?

Alexandre Métivier: One of the directors had worked with EU student interns in a previous company. The students involved benefited a lot after handling projects, business development and other functions with minimal cost and HR commitment for the company.

The experiences the students gained were compulsory for their degrees and helped their personal development and readiness for the world of full-time employment. The ESPA was conceived to help companies tap into this resource by offering a managed process and selection procedure.

“Current interns are helping us in the recruitment process as they wish to encourage others to enjoy the opportunity they have had”

 

TS: What have been your major successes so far?

AM: A ten-year-old UK business that was developing quickly, but with limited resources, selected 3 of our student candidates in one campaign and we are now recruiting their replacements because they have benefited so much from the experience and work put in by the interns. As a result, the current interns are helping us in this process as they wish to encourage others to enjoy the opportunity they have had.

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TS: Is there a different mindset to student placements in the UK as opposed to the rest of Europe?

AM: Internships are not normally compulsory in British degrees and have been regarded in the past as a ‘nice to have’ part of studies. British companies are just less aware of the internship programmes that are necessary as part of degrees in most European countries and our job is to raise that awareness and show the amazing benefits becoming a host company can bring to an organisation.

“Statistically those who have completed internships relevant to their studies are more likely to land full time roles on graduation”

 

TS: Why should students be interested?

AM: Internships are a genuine bridge between academia and the workplace, and employers recognise those with experience when it comes to recruiting. Statistically those who have completed internships relevant to their studies are more likely to land full time roles on graduation.

espaUKTS: How do companies know they are getting the best students from ESPA?

AM: We operate like a recruitment agency in promoting a ‘vacancy’ to our 700+ European University and Business School partners. We will screen all applicants; select the candidates who appear to offer the most suitable match for the host company and then Skype interview them. We create a shortlist for the company, supply the CVs and Skype notes of the candidates and allow the host company to choose who they wish to interview.

If there is a candidate that appeals to the host company the selection is made and we set to work finding suitable accommodation and preparing pre-arrival information for the intern. Until this point there is no cost to a company to look for an intern. They then judge whether the candidates are good enough. We think we are pretty good at reading CVs and selecting the best. The best 20% usually jump off the page.

“We think we are pretty good at reading CV’s and selecting the best students. The best 20% usually jump off the page.”

 

TS: How much does it cost?

AM: The internships are unpaid and ESPA charge a £1500 recruitment fee on successful selection, plus £500 a month to cover a room in a professional shared house (including utility costs, Wi-Fi, council tax and so on). That comes to around £4500 for a 23/24-year-old, multi lingual, university educated person to come and work in your company full time for 6 months which makes sense to most companies!

TS: Why are you based in the South West?

Because we live here and don’t ever want to move! We have a sister company in Belfast and place students throughout the UK, our location has little bearing on our service but helps to keep the costs down for host companies by not being London based.

Thank-you to Alexandre who took the time out to speak to us. For more information on getting involved as either a business looking for interns or a student looking for an internship, please check out the ESPA UK website. They also regularly post student vacancies on their Twitter profile at @ESPAPlacements and the ESPA UK Facebook page.

Alice Whale