The GREAT Ambassadors Scheme

The Chinese have a word that describes the importance of building professional relationships. More than just “networking”, guanxi (gwan-shee) has no literal English translation but roughly encompasses the virtues of cooperation, loyalty, communication, and trust. Students from the University of Sheffield are helping to create good guanxi between companies from the UK and China through the GREAT Ambassadors China scheme.

“Working on the GREAT Ambassadors scheme has been invaluable to Calibre UK in finding the right candidate to meet our Sales and Marketing needs for our customers in China.

Pauline Brooksbank, Managing Director of Calibre UK.

The scheme provides Chinese-speaking students with placement opportunities at UK companies that are developing trade links with China. The student’s knowledge of the language and business culture means that UK companies can communicate more effectively with their Chinese partners. The mutually beneficial scheme gives students a unique opportunity to develop valuable skills for their future careers, whilst supporting companies aiming to expand their global reach.

Yin Liu, an MA Global Journalism student benefitted from her placement at Chatsworth House.

“My main role is to help Chatsworth understand consumer behaviours and meet the needs of Chinese visitors through scanning social media used in China.”

“It was work that made a real difference for the business I was working for, as well as for me. I was a bridge between the UK and China.”

So far, over 50 CChatsworth Househinese students and UK businesses have benefitted from the UKTI initiated scheme since its launch in November 2014.

History and Politics student, Guy Wing, recently completed a three-month placement in China with the engineering company Gripple Ltd, through the scheme.

“I hugely enjoyed my work experience through the GREAT Ambassador scheme. My task was to first write a research proposal for assessing the vineyard industry of China, and then complete it using a combination of primary and secondary research. The GREAT Ambassador scheme allowed me to take on a real work project in a particularly interesting industry and improve my employability.”

The rapid economic growth of China continues to provide UK businesses with great opportunities. However, a lack of knowledge of Chinese language, Chinese business cultures and the Chinese market can be major concerns for UK businesses.

Pauline Brooksbank, the Managing Director of Calibre UK, a manufacturer of image processing products commented on the benefits of the scheme to her business.

“Working on the GREAT Ambassadors scheme has been invaluable to Calibre UK in finding the right candidate to meet our Sales and Marketing needs for our customers in China. The support at all levels has been excellent, from sourcing candidates to help with Student Visa applications. I would not hesitate to recommend this facility.”

The University of Sheffield has one of the largest Chinese student populations in the UK, making up 11% of its total student body. This coupled with a world-leading School of East Asian Studies and established links with China makes it easy to see why Sheffield was chosen by the government to pilot this scheme.

The GREAT Ambassador scheme allowed me to take on a real work project in a particularly interesting industry and improve my employability.

Guy Wing, History and Politics student.

Qingxuan Lin, a trainee trader from Global Recycling Metals (UK) Ltd says that “students trust the scheme as it is supported by the University of Sheffield and UKTI. Students engage with the scheme enthusiastically.”

All the candidates considered for the GREAT Ambassador scheme are pre-vetted, guaranteeing a selection of high-calibre entry-level employees. James Bower, the Managing Director of Global Recycling Metals (UK) Ltd commented to the University of Sheffield on the quality of the student involved in the placement.

“We are confident that in Lin you have found an individual who really can push our business forward.”

Other UK companies who have become involved in the project include the Castle Howard Estate in York. After hosting a Chinese celebrity wedding, the estate recruited a student through the GREAT Ambassadors scheme to develop its Chinese market and improve their services for this specific group of visitors.

Sheffield City Council are also involved through their ‘Sheffield in China’ project. A group of 7 Sheffield based companies embarked on a trade mission to China later this month. Each company recruited a Chinese-speaking student ambassador to prepare for the mission, some of the companies took the students on the trip to work as coordinators and interpreters.

As the GREAT Ambassadors China scheme continues to create good guanxi between the UK and China, plans are already being made to roll the scheme out to UK universities in collaboration with other international student groups such as those from India or Malaysia.