Support your students

SEVERAL branches of Slovakia's industry already suffer from a lack of qualified labour. Human resources experts say that one of the ways corporations and firms can ensure good employees in the future is to invest into their training during secondary school and university.

Slovak law does not allow corporations to cover full tution for students yet, but there are ways to invest in their future.
photo: TASR

SEVERAL branches of Slovakia's industry already suffer from a lack of qualified labour. Human resources experts say that one of the ways corporations and firms can ensure good employees in the future is to invest into their training during secondary school and university.

In many countries the financial aid that corporations provide students is more substantial than in Slovakia, but nonetheless, Slovakia's larger firms have started corporate responsibility programmes to assist students.

Slovak law does not allow corporations to cover full tuition for students, but there are still ways that a firm can invest in their education and get them interested in working for that company after they finish their studies, said Martin Noskovič of Siemens.

Some companies have their own foundations that award financial aid to students in the form of grants. In Slovakia, the SPP Foundation, set up by the Slovenský Plynárenský Priemysel (SPP) gas giant, and the Orange Account Foundation, set up by mobile provider Orange Slovensko, are among the best known.

The SPP Foundation has been supporting students through their Hlavička programme for three years now. During the first two years the foundation supported talented people from socially disadvantaged environments, but this year SPP has also assigned Sk4 million (€116,850) for high-achieving students to cover their studies and internship abroad, said Peter Kamenický, manager of the SPP Foundation.

The main criterion considered when awarding a grant is a good project, said Kamenický. So far, 18 out of 27 projects have been selected for financial support. The SPP Foundation gives grants of up to Sk150,000 (€4,400).

The Orange Account Foundation has been supporting gifted university students through its "Šanca pre talenty" (Chance for talents) programme. Over the past two years, 46 out of 97 projects have been approved, said Beata Hlavčáková, the corporate responsibility manager for Orange Slovensko.

This year the "Je ti tvoja škola malá?" (Is your school too small for you?) programme was designed to inspire students to think about their future career. The maximum support the Orange Account Foundation provides per project is Sk80,000 (€2,350).

While the Orange Account Foundation will support a student in any field, the T-Mobile mobile carrier is more specific in the support it offers students. According to Martin Vidan, T-Mobile spokesman, they organize lectures and excursions to build awareness about telecom-munication technologies and their use. T-Mobile is also a partner of the AIESEC student's organization and in 2007 was the general partner of National Career Day in Bratislava.

One of the most frequent complaints students have about Slovak universities is that they provide almost no practical training or internships. Some companies have said they are aware of the problems graduates might have when trying to integrate themselves into the working world and thus want to offer them internships related to their study. Many companies also provide consultancy for students' final theses.

Siemens offers internships in Slovakia as well as abroad for students hoping to create a stronger link between education and practical training, Kamenický told The Slovak Spectator.

Siemens PSE (Program and System Engineering), specialising in information and communication technologies and software engineering, employs around 90 students at the moment, mostly studying at technical universities and majoring in informatics and programming.

These students do mostly assistive administrative and programming jobs, said Kamenický. Those that achieve excellent results have the chance to take a summer internship at the mother company in Vienna.

"To be able to offer jobs to students is very important for us and this is proven by our years of cooperation with universities in Bratislava, Žilina and Košice," Kamenický said, adding that in 2006, around 30 percent of the students employed through their special programmes stayed on and got a permanent job at Siemens.

Východoslovenská Energetika (VSE) has had similar experiences with their Trainee programme, which offers students eight-month internships with the company and, if they do well, possibly a job, said Andrea Danihelová, spokeswoman for VSE.

These companies' internship programmes for students have met with success, but many of them are not limited only to those still studying but are also available to graduates who might be having difficulties finding a job on the Slovak market.

The companies say they do not demand anything from students in return and that these activities help the students just as they help the whole society.

"We are trying to make the students ready for practical work, they need to know what the job will demand of them," Noskovič said. "We also want to make a good presentation of the company for the students to rouse their interest in taking a position at our company in the future."

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