You might be unaware of just how valuable the Erasmus+ programme can be to a business, but here at HousingAnywhere, we’ve been maximising the talent opportunities it presents to help expand from our home in Rotterdam to hundreds of cities around the world.
For decades, the European Commission’s mobility project has allowed young people to offer their skills and enthusiasm to a new environment the borders of their home country. The Erasmus+ traineeship framework empowers students to validate 2 - 12 months of work experience abroad as a key element of their study programme by ensuring some financial support and academic recognition.
As we recognise workers all around the world on Labour Day, we’re celebrating one particular dimension of the European workforce: these student workers who take their first steps onto the career ladder in a foreign country, diving headfirst into the challenges and rewards this invariably brings.
With more than 25 nationalities in our team, HousingAnywhere has hosted more than 40 interns from all corners of the world over the past years. Some of them have grown into our top managers meaning that today, we’re lucky enough to have decisionmakers with an unwavering connection to our mission and brand. And this story is true elsewhere: one third of all Erasmus+ trainees are hired for a full time position following their internship period.
As an online marketplace whose main customers are students and interns moving abroad, international interns also help us stay close to our customers and reap the rewards of fresh ideas based on relevant experiences. In fact, we received an innovation award strongly based on work carried out by interns under the strategic management of other team members.
International trainees may also be a particularly good fit for a startup environment like ours. Research from the British Council shows that almost half of all graduates with international experience are involved in innovation, compared to just 25% of those who missed out on a mobility experience.
Our founder Niels, explains how interns also contribute to growing geographic presence: “The Erasmus+ programme has been invaluable to the growth of HousingAnywhere. Our transition from start-up to the international scale-up we are today would not have been possible without the many Erasmus+ trainees we’ve hosted. The programme not only provides a young, motivated and affordable source of labour, it’s a fantastic way for businesses aspiring towards international expansion to source talent with the necessary linguistic and cultural competencies.”
Hiring the right people crucial, and there are some key challenges when it comes to managing interns. In the spirit of labour day, it’s also important to ensure the experience is a positive, rewarding and fair one for the intern from start to finish.
So how can you leverage the potential of Erasmus+ trainees and cultivate an environment where they can actively contribute to the growth of the company? Here are some the key lessons we’ve learned over several years of hosting international interns and seeing them blossom into successful young professionals.
The HousErasmus+ study showed that mobile trainees struggle more than students in finding accommodation abroad. This may be true of other practical matters. Bear in mind that hiring interns from abroad means taking on the role of a host university; think about what they’ll struggle with before and during their move, and offer relevant information and preparation tools wherever possible.
Having a fairly flat hierarchy helps a lot; our interns can chat to the CEO or managers if they have an idea they’d like to share. Plus, we create opportunities for anyone to be part of key discussions, such as “Ask Product Anything” sessions.
Those managing the interns’ experience should have time allocated for training and listening to any concerns. Make sure to articulate how interns can see the real impact of your work and be part of something new and exciting,
Going abroad comes with significant financial burdens, and the Erasmus+ grant certainly won’t cover all the costs. Even as a scale-up company, we pay our interns more than top multinational firms in the city, and offer them a performance-based bonus. As we grow, we’ll strive to improve this even further.
Having multiple interns means your staff turnover will increase since when many will return to their studies after 6 months. Prepare for this by thinking ahead and having them create whitebooks with all the work they’ve done.
So here’s to all our interns, past and present! May many successes follow, home or away.
Employers, consider what incredible things international interns can bring to your organisation and students, get inspired to kickstart your career abroad with an internship!
Students inspired to intern abroad and businesses hoping to host international interns can consult this excellent traineeship database created by Erasmus Student Network.