|Friday, September 29, 2000||
Volume 66, Issue 29
Task force will focus on 'friendliness'
UH students are work abroad for a group that helps sharpen skills in the business world
By Tom Carpenter
AIESEC is an international, nonprofit, nonpolitical student organization that began in France in the aftermath of World War II to bring war-torn people together.
Its purpose was to promote culture and encourage tolerance among the people in the world and to give its members an opportunity to gain valuable business experience and make contacts around the globe.
Today, the organization's members are students and recent graduates who focus on management and economics.
"What we're developing is the world leaders of tomorrow. We've got thousands of members in 80 countries," said Gerald Broussard, a former president of AIESEC-Houston who now serves on the local chapter's Board of Advisors.
AIESEC provides tomorrow's business leaders with international business experiences today by enabling students to work for companies all over the world. Five UH students are currently working through the program in France, Switzerland, Venezuela and Turkey. The Houston chapter has six foreign trainees contracted to local businesses.
Joaquin Oliveras was an AIESEC member from Spain who now works with Enron Energy Service in Houston.
"AIESEC provided me with an excellent group of friends who shared my interest in cultures and diversity," Oliveras said. "It's proactive. It gives you an attitude that you can do things. I realize now those skills were an immense help to me."
The AIESEC process begins when a representative targets a company, generally one referred by the Board of Advisors or former AIESEC members.
The company completes a form detailing its needs, and AIESEC finds suitable candidates through its computer system. A telephone interview takes place when a match is found.
The student may be employed for up to 18 months.
"We cut through the red tape to get visas because of a special arrangement we have with the State Department," said Kayoor Gajarawala, who serves on AIESEC-Houston's Board of Advisors.
The arrangement works well for participating companies, too: They don't pay the international employees Social Security benefits because of their visa status, and although they pay AIESEC a finder's fee, it is less than what a professional headhunter would charge. Plus, Broussard said the fee is fully tax-deductible.
Gajarawala said the business exposure is just one part of the adventure for AIESEC participants. Another important part of the experience is the cultural aspects of discovering a new country.
"From abroad, we usually get the cream of the crop," Gajarawala said. "A lot of them have master's degrees, and it's not unusual to have someone with a Ph.D. come across. We help our members to culturally integrate wherever they're located."
Although the group's focus is still on business, changing economy and job markets have broadened its member base.
"Originally the focus was on economics, commerce and businesspeople. Now we're getting computer students and engineering students," Gajarawala said.
Even the organization's name has changed to reflect its membership. AIESEC is an acronym for Association Internationale des Etudiants en Sciences Economiques et Commerciales, but the full name has been dropped to indicate the group is interested in more than business and economics.
AIESEC's long-range goal is to be the largest and best global student exchange program in the world. It hopes to be on the cutting edge of the college experience by providing students with the opportunities to sharpen their skills and focus their perspectives in the international business world.
According to its annual report, AIESEC's mission is "to contribute to
the development of our countries and their people with an overriding commitment
to international understanding and cooperation."
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