A Birmingham finance firm is reaping the rewards of UK Trade and Investment’s (UKTI) international graduate placement scheme.

UKTI West Midlands has teamed up with Aston University, offering student placement opportunities to help companies overcome cultural and language barriers.

In the past 12 months Trade and Export Finance Ltd (TAEFL) has employed seven graduates and postgraduates, with support from UKTI’s Postgraduates for International Business programme.

The graduates working with TAEFL, from Lithuania, Romania, Nigeria, and Cyprus, have been helping to boost the firm’s export activity by assisting with the firm’s trade in overseas markets.

Independent research by Professor Foreman-Peck from Cardiff Business School estimates that as much as £48 billion in international sales is lost every year because of language and cultural ignorance.

Foreign-language speaking graduates placed in companies can build contacts and trade in countries where English is not the first language. They can also help companies with a range of other tasks, such as making new international business contacts, helping develop international facing websites, and advising on cultural and business etiquette.

To work well internationally, you need to go the extra mile to connect. We found that when helping clients trading in new markets where English is not the first language, potential customers feel safer and more at ease using their own language.

Their language and cultural skills mean they are able to create a firmer bond with both clients and potential clients, which is more likely to lead to a successful business relationship.

The programme is a win-win model. We benefit from the energy and enthusiasm of students who are happy to be given the opportunity to learn in a supportive environment.

One of TAEFL’s international students, Lelia Neophytou from Cyprus said:

Working in a growing international environment gives me real life experience in readiness for doing international business.