Young graduates: international volunteering in companies, a springboard to employment?


After the health crisis, the borders are gradually reopening, particularly in Asia, and young graduates deprived of study trips, academic exchanges and internships abroad will finally be able to carry out the international experience projects they are waiting for. since a long time.

For these young graduates who had their wings cut off during their higher education, a stay abroad is both an exciting and necessary prospect for developing their openness to the world, their autonomy and their critical thinking. Valuable assets to assume their future responsibilities.

Since the creation of VIE ( international volunteering in companies ) in 2000 and the departure of the first volunteers in 2001, more than 97,567 young people have taken advantage of the system on behalf of 8,579 French companies. Currently 121 countries host 8,175 VIEs, 57% men and 43% women, with an average mission duration of 18 months on behalf of 1,700 companies.

After a first major survey in 2018, Business France, the agency in charge of the internationalization of the French economy, once again commissioned the NewGen Talent Center to assess the impact of the VIE system before and during the Covid years. EDHEC’s center of expertise on new generations questioned and analyzed the paths of 3,747 VIEs who completed their mission between 2018 and 2021. The great mobilization for this survey is a first indicator of the interest of the program and its initiatory dimension for young people aged 26 on average.

A career accelerator

97% of respondents recommend VIE to young graduates. For these people at the start of their career, it is seen as a professional springboard, a chance to show their qualities and potential, to surpass themselves, open up to the world and become independent. The plebiscite is total even for young people in LIFE during the health crisis and whose mission conditions have often been disrupted and constrained.

The VIE is an effective catalyst for access to employment, with 9 out of 10 young people leaving for the VIE having found a job in less than six months after their mission. This system is often the prelude to very interesting professional opportunities abroad such as expatriation contracts and 88% of respondents consider it a good system for professional integration, as this testimony highlights:
“The company I did my VIE in hired me immediately after my VIE ended, and I stayed in China for several years. My career took off thanks to this device. Today, I have already had 2 big promotions: China process coordinator for four factories and in May 2022, I will set foot in management in Mexico as production manager, still for the same company. »
For them, going abroad for two years corresponds to a particularly rewarding and gratifying professional experience. 3 out of 4 young people see VIE as a career accelerator because it is a challenging job due to its international side which allows them to open up to a different culture, to sharpen their adaptability and to make their first cuts. Their mission was an opportunity for 2 out of 3 young people to access a higher level of responsibility than a similar position in France, as this volunteer recounts:
“The VIE allowed me to change my professional orientation towards a field in which I could not find a position that accepted my very junior level in France. This allowed me to integrate a large company and to create my network within it. I was able to gain expertise in the chosen field and I am currently still working in this field. »
The VIE accompanies particularly well the evolution of the aspirations of the new generations whether it is about the acquisition of skills and the stakes of personal development, international perspectives or societal impact.

Skills acquisition

For 3 out of 4 young people, the VIE was an opportunity to surpass themselves thanks to an ambitious mission which enabled them to quickly train in a profession but also to learn the codes and become immersed in the functioning of a large multicultural company. They have also developed their autonomy at work, for 87% of them, and have thus been able to gain confidence and gain professional confidence.

97% of young incomers from a VIE assignment have developed at least one of the following qualities: ability to learn, interpersonal skills, sense of results, teamwork, agility, critical thinking, innovation, creativity, etc.

They also took the opportunity to increase their level of proficiency in a foreign language since 73% of them were bilingual or fluent in the language of the country visited at the end of their mission. “The VIE allowed me to have international experience in a large French company, to develop my English and to be recruited in a great American company for a position for which English was subsequently necessary” , says one of the interviewees.

The international perspective

Above all, the VIE represented for these young people the opportunity for an international career start and an intercultural experience: 89% wanted to include an international experience on their CV when leaving for VIE and 78% wanted to discover another country.

And indeed, the VIE is a springboard in this direction: 77% still have an international dimension in their current career.

Rising from 14% in 2018 to 21% in 2021, the CSR dimension (social and environmental responsibility) is progressing in VIE’s missions and thus increasingly meets this expectation of societal impact of young people, which this testimony illustrates well. :
“All the events I organized, including many conferences, had issues related to the search for sustainable solutions in various fields. From the choice of caterer, to offsetting the CO 2 used for travel…everything was done to improve our commitment to the city but also to our planet. »

A loyalty tool in the company

In a context of labor shortages and strong tensions in the labor market, companies are now engaged in fierce competition to recruit the best talent. The VIE is a great tool for detecting and attracting young graduates.

It is a talent retention solution because 1 out of 2 young people continued their professional career in the company for which they were on a VIE mission, whether in the host country, in another country or in France.

The top five reasons why young people stay in their company after their VIE are:

  • the attractive working environment and conditions they enjoy;
  • the interest of the missions proposed following VIE;
  • the advantageous salary level;
  • the possibility of continuing to develop their skills;
  • better career prospects than changing employers.

They are also 60% to develop an attachment to the company of their LIFE due, among other things, to the quality of human relations and the good atmosphere from which they benefited. They are grateful and want to show their gratitude to the company. “I’m grateful for the chance I was given to prove to myself and the rest of the world that there was no limit to what I could accomplish,” says the one of the attendees.

The identification with the values ​​and the culture of the company as well as the direction of the project carried by this one are the other ferments of this attachment.

It should be noted that this corporate volunteering scheme has withstood the health crisis particularly well, with levels of satisfaction and recommendation equivalent to those measured four years earlier. This program, which is the envy of foreign countries, is still too little known and underused both by small and medium-sized businesses and by eligible young people, particularly Europeans, which is paradoxical in relation to its potential and, surprisingly, missions remain difficult to fill for some companies.

However, the latest news is excellent, since the start of the school year and the opening of the borders of new countries, notably mainland China, Israel and Chile, young people are rushing to leave… In September 2022, more than 1,000 young people left for VIE and this figure will be even higher in October, which bodes well for the French presence abroad and for the economy.

Author Bios: Caroline Rubin, head of studies at NewGen, is co-author of this article with Manuelle Malot, director of the NewGen Talent Center, and Geneviève Houriet Segard, deputy director and research engineer at the NewGen Talent Center.