News story

Overseas students to help UK businesses

North West companies offered help to overcome export barriers with student placements in the Postgraduates for International Business Scheme


International Students can provide real help to UK businesses hoping to export to new markets, and UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) is offering to assist companies who want to arrange placements.

The nationwide student placement scheme run by UKTI – Postgraduates for International Business – began in the summer and is already receiving applications from companies wanting to employ international students to help them overcome barriers to exporting. The scheme provides valuable and cost effective access to languages, cultural and business knowledge in overseas markets.

The Postgraduates for International Business programme started earlier this year, and so far six North West companies have submitted applications and Language and Culture Adviser Sara Knowles has engaged 11 universities in the programme including the University of Manchester and the University of Salford.

Sara says,

It is early days at the moment but Universities are showing great interest in the programme and so far companies have requested assistance for projects requiring German, Brazilian Portuguese; South American Spanish and French speakers. I received a new application enquiry for assistance with Mandarin Chinese towards the end of last week and we’re currently working on the role profile.

Hiring an international student can help your company to address the language and cultural barriers associated with market entry and development and is a real asset to companies wishing to export.

Examples of possible projects are: Website development; research on new markets and strategy; market visit support; development of international contacts; customer and supplier liaison, and helping follow up business leads.

There is no set-up cost, and salary can be agreed between the employer and student. I would encourage people to talk to me or their International Trade Adviser to see how we can help.

Amanda Conway, Careers Manager (International) from the University of Manchester says,

The University of Manchester has an outstanding international talent pool with around 10,000 international students across a broad range of specialisms and nationalities. Our students are sought by regional businesses to support their international business operations, meet language requirements or offer cultural insights and we are delighted to be able to raise awareness of these opportunities through the new UKTI initiative. Many of our students are keen to gain experience in local organisations whilst in the UK and share their expertise within the region. They can also offer a valuable bridge to international markets upon returning to their home countries.

Trade Minister Lord Livingston also announced the GREAT Ambassadors scheme this week, a pilot programme run by UKTI and the University of Sheffield to place Chinese-speaking students with UK companies to help them break into the Chinese market or find new investment. The GREAT Ambassadors scheme was originally announced alongside the Prime Minister’s visit to China in December 2013 and will operate for one academic year (2014/15).

China has been chosen as the target market for the GREAT Ambassadors pilot as their import demand is expected to dwarf all the other emerging powers, rising by $3.4 trillion between 2010 and 2020. China is also expected to invest $1.25 trillion overseas in the next decade. If successful, the scheme may be rolled out to other universities wishing to take part and trialled with other major non-EU international student groups such as India or Malaysia.

China has more students studying in the UK than any other overseas group, with more than 70,000 according to the most recent figures. In the North West there are around 20,000 students from China – with 5000 in Greater Manchester alone.

Interns will undertake a range of projects including:

  • Helping companies establish online Chinese presence for example on Tmall – China’s equivalent to eBay
  • Help market the company via Chinese social media channels such as Weibo (Chinese equivalent to Twitter)
  • Liaising with Chinese distributors
  • Provide advice and support on Chinese business culture and etiquette
  • Helping companies develop a Chinese version of their brand
  • Support company representatives on market visits to China
  • Identify ways to cater for growing numbers of Chinese tourists such as menus and signage

Several companies in the North West already employ Chinese students or interns and can attest to the benefits.

Ben Hui, Managing Director of Language Brand Communication Ltd in Manchester says,

Our company employed a post graduate student from University of Manchester from about two and a half years ago. Initially, Tiffany was employed as a part time assistant to help the team with the China marketing strategy we carried out for our clients. Two years on, she is now employed full time and has recently been promoted as China marketing manager, looking after our key clients. Like hiring any interns, we invested a lot of resources in training her up initially but I would certainly recommend other companies to consider hiring Chinese student if they are exporting or trading with China.

Don Whittle, HR Director of Precision Technologies Group in Rochdale adds,

We have Chinese interns on occasions working for PTG and the benefits are enormous as we are owned by a Chinese Group, based in Chongqing. We find that they are adept in explaining the cultural differences in a way that we can fully understand. Even though we have had exports into China for many years the difference in working so closely with our parent Group now would put a great strain on our resources without the considerable help on the interns.

They provide excellent meeting skills within our business and strongly support our business from within the company. We visit our parent company in Chongqing regularly, we have a manufacturing cell embedded in one of their sites, and conference calls are made so much more beneficial when our language is better understood through the translation skills of our staff, and the future expansion of our business would certainly be held back if we did not have the benefit of our interns from China.

Trade Minister Lord Livingston said:

China offers great opportunities for UK companies of all sizes, with growing demand for brand Britain. Chinese-speaking students can help UK businesses to overcome the linguistic and cultural barriers that could stand between them and the Chinese market. Contact UKTI to find out how they can help you with your export ambitions in China and beyond.

To find out how your company can benefit and to request a placement either via the GREAT Ambassadors programme or the Postgraduates for International Business programme please contact: Sara Knowles, Language and Culture Adviser at UKTI North West through the team on (0)333 320 0392 or

Published 27 November 2014