Business West training programme opening up career pathways in international trade to students

Kye Parkin
Communications Executive | Business West
19th June 2019

Business West’s award winning International Trade Centre is responsible for assisting over £700m worth of UK exports annually.

With unparalleled expertise and a track record of facilitating and growing export sales for UK businesses spanning 5 continents, Business West is celebrating the 5th year of delivering its innovative educational programme to inspire the next generation of international trade professionals, Pathways to International Trade. 

India and US Market Specialist, Ameeta Virk is the brainchild behind the award nominated Business West project designed to cultivate and nurture the future workforce.

Ameeta comments, “If businesses are to meet the challenge of reaching the UK government’s export targets – which is to increase the proportion of GDP derived from exports from 30% to 35% – skills gaps need to be addressed. If we want to get more UK businesses exporting than ever, then we need to ensure that a highly skilled and highly trained workforce is in place for the future.”

According to Ameeta, talented graduates are the key to plugging these skills gap, but suggests that a lack of awareness is to blame for so few pursuing a career in international trade." She continues “International trade encapsulates a wide variety of business activities and specialisms and spans numerous industry sectors, meaning that a career in international trade is often overlooked by graduates in favour of more structured and traditional career pathways such as professional services. That being so, we identified the need to raise awareness of career pathways in international trade amongst students, to educate them in fundamental aspects of exporting to enhance their employability, all with a view to increasing the labour pool of talented graduates for exporters and global businesses to recruit from.”

Out of this need to raise awareness of careers in international trade, enhance employability and engage industry stakeholders, the Business West Pathways to International Trade programme was born.

Business West partnered with the University of Exeter - part of the UK’s Russell Group of leading universities to deliver the week-long intensive training course to a select handful of high-calibre students from a range of disciplinary backgrounds at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. The programme consists of five days of intensive trade and employability training followed by an assessed group project in which the students apply their international trade knowledge to create a go-to-market strategy for a real-life business scenario. After this week, students obtain a one-week paid internship with Business West clients, funded by University of Exeter.

Paul Blackmore, Divisional Head of Student Employability and Academic Services at University of Exeter comments:

“The University of Exeter is committed to ensuring that our students and graduates are fully prepared to hit the ground running when they enter the labour market. Pathways to International Trade, alongside our growing portfolio of sector-specific programmes, ensures that they have the commercial awareness and business knowledge that employers seek amongst job applicants. We are delighted that our collaboration with Business West grows from strength-to-strength each year and is a ‘win-win’ for students, employers and the region’s economy.”

Supported by the Department for International Trade (DIT), the programme has benefitted over 100 exporting businesses in the region by providing skilled business support through the internships. For instance, Devon-based soft drinks company Luscombe successfully entered the Chinese market after students successfully completed an international market research project for the business.

Pathways to International Trade alumni Alejandra Cossio-Martinez secured a role as an Export Sales Co-ordinator at education company Mallory International near Exeter shortly after taking part in the programme. Discussing how the Pathways to International Trade programme has helped her embark upon a successful career Alejandra comments: “Interacting with experts from Business West as well as real businesses and understanding the challenges they face when exporting was very insightful. It was an incredibly enriching and interesting opportunity. In the programme, there were many teamwork activities, including our final project that consisted of creating an export strategy for a company. Our final project brief was challenging, but our great team had lots of ideas to how we could solve this issue.”

Alejandra continues: “This experience gave me plenty of examples for competency-based interviews. I loved my degree, but I feel like the Pathways Programme taught me a lot more about real-world business than some of my modules. I loved the entire week, particularly the talks and team project. Even now, almost 3 years later I still think it was an amazing experience.”

Fellow Pathways to International Trade alumni Jan Sassenberg participated in the programme in 2016 and explains: “I decided to participate because I thought the programme seemed like a great concept because it combined knowledge with practical experience. I was very interested in learning about international trade, how this industry worked and how the supply chain functioned from the beginning to the end. I was very keen to apply this knowledge in an internship and considered this a valuable opportunity. Additionally, I wanted to learn about international trade since it is increasingly important especially with the current digital revolution.”

Jan added: “Besides the knowledge of international trade gained, I benefitted through this programme by connecting with other students with an interest in this industry too. I especially liked our final group project, which consisted of developing an export strategy for a product.  We presented our findings in front of business experts and their feedback was invaluable. The workshops, final project and internship were hands-on and I gained valuable work experience that I could include in my CV and utilise during interviews.”

Brandon Foo, current Masters student in Business Analytics at Cass Business School and University of Exeter Pathways to International Trade alumni is similarly effusive regarding his experience of the programme and comments: “I thought the content of the Pathways programme was very engaging and structured. I liked how the first week consisted of comprehensive training before the second week, in which we had our internship and could actually apply those skills and that knowledge on the programme's partner companies. Work experience is your best friend. In order to really learn more about the industry, having first-hand experience; be it an internship, placement or graduate scheme, is definitely the most practical way to learn more and succeed in your field.”

For more information on Pathways to International Trade contact:

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  • Meet your expert

    Ameeta Virk has dedicated the last five years assisting British companies grow their exports, leading multiple trade delegations to bring UK businesses together with their overseas customers. Previoulsy Ameeta had a varied career in Europe, Asia and the US in the retail, education and healthcare sectors.

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