Tuesday, June 9, 2009

BUNAC (to the UK) is back...

I just received an email earlier today announcing that a version of the BUNAC Blue Card is back with its Intern in Britain program.

The announcement I received opened with the following:
BUNAC is pleased to announce the launch of our exciting new Intern in Britain program. This is a one-time opportunity for US students and recent graduates to work as an intern in the UK for up to 6 months. The program will be available to your students exclusively through BUNAC and comes after many months of negotiations with the UK government.

I would love to know what went into those negotiations. Unlike any other extant program, there's no academic component to this one (that I can find). The announcement noted it comes in under Tier 5 of the new UK immigration scheme which provides for "youth mobility and temporary workers, who are allowed to work in the United Kingdom for a limited period of time to satisfy primarily non-economic objectives" (see here).

A couple initial observations:
  • It's pricier than the earlier program (at least as best as I can recall) -- program fee eventually will reach $750 (1 October 2009). You also must have at least $1500 in reserve and insurance coverage.
  • Participants need to set up their internship prior to applying for the necessary permit. It's the classic chicken and egg problem of working abroad: one of the great strengths of the earlier BUNAC program was that participants got the necessary papers & permits to work prior to arriving in the UK and could tramp around applying for work. No more!
  • The internship must be skilled (or rather, according to the BUNAC site and some lovely bureaucratese, "cannot be an unskilled position"), should be a minimum of 25 hours a week, "subject to National Minimum Wage," and must be "supernumerary" which, again according to the website, means that "the presence of an intern must not harm the resident labour market. Interns must not fill vacancies in the UK workforce and must do work that is additional to the employer's normal staffing requirements."
Just saw something else of interest: the £125 visa fee is not included in the program fee.


It will be interesting to see how this takes off, and how BUNAC's numbers for this iteration of the program compare to its earlier set-up. Still on the whole cheaper than most providers but I wonder how difficult it will be for interested students and graduates (you have 12 months following graduation to join the fun) to search for an internship on these terms.

My sense is that this is going to be a vehicle for other providers who have networks and relationships with employers and organizations (and are able to actually coordinate and set up internships with them) to get their interns abroad under the new system.

Boy, oh boy... This really does point out how important it is for students to network and interview (informational) when they are in the UK on a study abroad program (or even just traveling for pleasure) if they think they might be interested in returning to work one day!

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