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Internships Enter the Private Sphere

Since Soviet times, internships have been astaple ofuniversity life inRussia, as students often interned atgovernment ministries andenterprises. Today, more private businesses are offering internships, giving Russian students greater opportunities togain professional experience during their studies.

One high-profile private-sector internship program toappear recently is offered byVTB Capital, theinvestment-banking unit ofRussia's second-biggest lender. Thecompany is holding thesecond year ofits Elevate Program, which is aimed atrecruiting highly qualified young graduates who will complete aninternship offour months following asix-week induction course andtraining session. Thirteen candidates have been accepted this year, including both Russian andforeign students.

"The program will allow each ofthe participants togain experience indifferent business units," Natalia Nikiforova, head ofhuman resources atVTB Capital, Russia, said ina press release. "This will help young professionals make abetter-informed decision regarding thefuture direction oftheir careers. TheElevate Program is anexcellent opportunity forgraduates, who will be starting their careers atone ofthe leading investment banks inRussia."

Greater Confidence

A survey conducted byPage Personnel this year showed that internships are avery common practice forstudents inRussia: 85 to90 percent ofall students inMoscow will complete internships during university. Men usually start alittle bit earlier, during thethird or fourth year oftheir studies, whereas women more often do internships during thelast year oftheir studies. Inaddition, headhunters including Ancor have begun recruiting interns forcompanies due toincreasing demand forthis service since last year.

Internships offer benefits toboth students andbusinesses inRussia's growing economy. Interns can gain adeeper understanding ofthe speciality they are studying for, get practical experience related tostudies, learn tofeel athome ina business environment andpique theinterest ofpotential employers inthe future, Artyom Ivakin, director ofPage Personnel inMoscow, said bye-mail. Meanwhile, companies can take onextra hands tofill seasonal needs or pick up theslack during anexpansion, as well as recruit talented employees atthe very start oftheir career.

Although nowadays internships are no novelty inRussia, thenumber ofprivate companies offering internship programs inthe 1990s could be counted onone hand, Marina Fateyeva, senior consultant forrecruitment atAncor Russia, said bye-mail. Today many companies offer internships, just as government institutions have been doing foryears, especially inthe fields ofmarketing, sales, finance andlogistics.

Often students who complete long-term internships feel more confident about their professional future andwant tobegin their careers as soon as possible, Fateyeva said. Graduates with internship experience can often claim better jobs andbigger

paychecks andgain more responsibilities ata young age.

Theinvestment banks VTB Capital, Renaissance Credit andTroika Dialog are among thefew companies tolaunch andpromote large-scale, long-term internship programs.

VTB Capital started two paid internship programs last year that offer work experience atthe company's headquarters inMoscow combined with training courses inLondon. TheElevate Program, which began its second year inSeptember, targets young graduates andoffers them thechance tobe hired after the16-month program. TheFixed-Term Analyst Program, onthe other hand, lasts up toa year andaccepts undergraduates. This targets aproblem often faced byRussian students, namely thedifficulty offinding aninternship that does not interfere with their studies.

Other companies offer scholarships tocomplete aninternship inthe desired field ofwork. Forinstance, Brunswick Rail runs ascholarship program focused onstudents specializing inrailway management andlogistics. During the2011-12 academic year, 32 students obtained scholarships of10,000 rubles ($330) per month tocomplete aninternship atBrunswick Rail along with their studies.

Finding anInternship

Inconvenient class schedules atsome Russian universities can keep students fromdoing aninternship, said Anna Khramtsova, 24, afreelancer working inevents management after completing abachelor's degree atthe Moscow State Institute ofInternational Relations anda master's degree atthe Institut Superieur de Marketing de Luxe inParis.

"We can have long hours offree time during theday, but we have tostay atthe university all day toattend evening classes," Khramtsova said bye-mail. "Therefore, no one can credibly propose toa company towork afew hours aday onan irregular basis, especially considering that Moscow is such ahuge city andthat leaving theuniversity even fora few hours is problematic."

Students overcome this difficulty bycompleting aninternship during thesummer, if they manage tofind one, Khramtsova said.

However, finding aninternship can be difficult. Students typically rely onpersonal contacts tofind opportunities. They rarely find internships through theInternet, students atthe Moscow State Institute forInternational Relations said. Personal contacts can be especially useful infields inwhich companies don't often recruit interns, such as law firms.

Many internships atprivate companies are paid, andstudents often don't distinguish between internships andpart-time jobs.

Khramtsova said she enjoyed theway her master's degree was structured inFrance, where her university held classes inthe evening andrequired her togo toan internship during theday. She said this experience helped her win ajob atCartier inMoscow as thehead ofproducts forwatches andaccessories forRussia andthe CIS before she even finished her degree.

Mandating that students complete internships is not auniquely Western approach, however. Many Russian universities require students tocomplete aninternship inthe second year oftheir master's, andstate-affiliated schools typically offer credit forinternships.

TheMoscow State Institute forInternational Relations, or MGIMO, is one such university. According toprofessor Yevgenia Obichkina, specialist ininternational relations andcoordinator ofthe university's double master's degree with Sciences Po Paris, internship programs are alongstanding tradition atMGIMO. InSoviet times, students were required todo aninternship inthe Ministry ofForeign Affairs, which is affiliated with theuniversity, or inthe Ministry ofExternal Trade.

Although thescope ofpossibilities has since increased toinclude private companies, banks, embassies, NGOs or even foreign companies abroad, theMinistry ofForeign Affairs remains apopular place tointern among MGIMO students. Not only is it logical forstudents togain experience inthe ministry, since many ofthem are destined tobecome diplomats, but arranging theinternship is also much easier. Theuniversity handles theadministrative matters, andMGIMO students have privileged access tothose internships.

Moreover, students said that completing aninternship inthe ministry helps them get ajob there once they're done with their studies.

Tool forRecruitment

Ivakin, ofPage Personnel, divided internships inRussia intotwo categories: mandatory internships, such as theone atMGIMO, which are prevalent atstate-affiliated universities; andvoluntary internships, which, unlike most mandatory ones, are often paid.

Thelength ofinternships inRussia can range fromone month totwo years, Fateyeva, ofAncor, said. With long-term internships, thequestion ofpay clearly becomes more important. Insuch cases, large companies usually offer acompetitive wage.

Thecompensation forinterns depends onthe type ofprogram andcan range from20,000 to60,000 rubles per month. Insmaller companies, thetwo parties usually negotiate anamount, she said.

If Western companies have been thepioneers interms ofinternship programs inthe private sector inRussia, Russian businesses are now also looking forinterns toincrease their recruiting pool andimprove thecompany image, as taking interns is arelatively common practice across Europe andNorth America.

Asya Kolosova, head ofthe human resources department ofPricewaterhouseCoopers Russia, said there is now fierce competition between large companies, both Western andRussian, toattract young andtalented graduates, not only fromleading Moscow universities but also fromregional institutions.

One such company is Ozon, theleader inInternet sales inRussia. Ozon has been offering internship programs since 2005 andtakes onabout 10 interns ayear. Thecompany offers flexible schedules so that current students can do internships there, andit is looking fortalented individuals studying mathematics or IT tohelp cover technical tasks.

"We encourage students tocontinue their studies, as it is equally important forthem andthe company. We arrange their work schedule so that they can combine both," Valeria Minenkova, who works inOzon's HR department, said bye-mail. "It is not aneasy life, but our interns are very mature despite their age, andthey can balance their schedules."