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David Lloyd, The Intern Group, UK

DL: That’s the issue; they all want to go abroad principally and prime English language destinations like London and Australia are the number one choice but last year we sent a few students to Madrid where they were in English-speaking roles. The language issue with Chinese students can be an issue, but we have a minimum threshold which we test with IELTS and the 20 minute Skype interview we do with all candidates who apply to us.

"And what I’ve realised recently is, it’s a huge phenomenon in China and China’s actually our quickest growing market"

The PIE: The company interviews them?

DL: Yes. Last year we interviewed 16,000 people.

The PIE: Do you refuse to deal with some people?

DL: Yes. We principally reject people based on language skills – English language skills being the main thing – but in that 20 minute Skype or phone interview we often reject people based on… you can see they might have a very poor attitude or they might be a complete weirdo. We don’t want people like that reflecting badly on us.

The PIE: So how many people do you place in a typical year?

DL: Last year we had just under 1,000 bookings on the programme.

The PIE: Can you offer internships anywhere?

DL: In London, Hong Kong, Madrid, Melbourne and Colombia. Colombia is the emerging market.

“Just like a study abroad programme it includes accommodation, cultural events, social events, 24/7 support”

The PIE: And what’s the business model? Do they pay you to organise it?

DL: We organise the programme, just like a study abroad programme. Just like a study abroad programme it includes accommodation, cultural events, social events, 24/7 support from a full-time team. We do all of that. But the key difference is instead of just the study element in the university abroad we put together professional development training workshops and, crucially, guarantee an internship placement in the sector of interest. So we work across 20 industry sectors, from finance and HR to theatre and film, and we charge a fee for everything included in that. What’s not included in that is flights and food and travel insurance.

We did include food before – especially in Colombia, we had a homestay option, but we realised that the students prefer to cook for themselves.

The PIE: Can you give me one example of an internship that’s worked out really well?

DL: We have a fantastic partnership with the Colombian government and they give us unlimited roles in all secretary of the government, so from Secretary of the Economy, to Social Development, to International Trade, and we’ve placed up to 30 people at a time. And these are really high-level, good quality roles.

The PIE: How long will an internship typically last?

DL: The students choose – or the participants. As you asked me earlier they’re not all that age, but we’re still in the mindset of calling everyone a student, which is quite wrong! But all participants choose and typically the average is eight weeks but they can choose any time between six weeks and six months. Six months is more common with university semester abroad people.

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