Ubifrance: raising awareness of ICV
is the French agency for international business development. It is a veritable
hub for French SMEs and large groups in other countries, supporting over 15,000
businesses each year and thousands of young international corporate volunteers (ICV).
Faced with global competition, the government agency sought to improve its
services and commercial strategy.
For several years, France
has burdened under a several foreign trade deficit, which dipped even further in
2007 down to almost 40 billion euros. What role does Ubifrance play against this
: There are obviously short-term reasons relating to the present low ebb in our
foreign trade. With rising energy and gas prices, a strong euro, and the
financial crisis in the United States, it is a difficult period for world trade.
It is nevertheless a fact that our companies must be better equipped
internationally. Ubifrance provides companies a global network of 2,000
specialists, tools, and services to facilitate setting up business abroad. We
are a public service provider that promotes access to business at every step of
a company's growth. More recently, we extended our service offer to SMEs. For
managers of these companies, exporting can indeed appear complicated, yet it is
a powerful development tool. We want to be the organisation that gives a leg up
to companies casting their sights internationally.
advantages does ICV present for recent graduates or companies in an economy
where international development is becoming the standard?
Today, big companies are reviewing conditions for their expatriate workers. The
time when French expatriate executives were "lords of war" revelling in enviable
perks is long gone. For companies, ICV is a simple, economically viable solution
with few legal hassles. For recent graduates, volunteering provides strong
professional experience. In most cases, volunteers are entrusted with genuinely
weighty jobs. In fact, our former ICV participants often say that their time
volunteering helped accelerate their career.
It is a balanced contract with a trial period for both volunteer and company.
ICV is mutually beneficial, the meeting of two opportunities. Finally for the
company, ICV has clearly become a way to attract recruits in a tense job market.
Most major French groups now look to ICV to help them hire their future
international executives. But the same goes for SMEs: ICV helps them project an
ambitious, innovative corporate image and thus attract profiles which might have
slipped through their fingers otherwise.
International corporate volunteering is one of the
backbones of Ubifrance. Since being set up in 2001, the ICV system has earned
its laurels, and one year ago it celebrated the departure of the 5,000th
volunteer. Now the government is asking you to speed up the pace.
Ubifrance is looking for recent graduates with a proven track record, good
language training, and a personality suiting expatriate life and assuming
responsibilities. It is a difficult mission, given the growing tensions of the
labour market and the fact that Ubifrance is not a professional hiring agency.
It is true that the government has established very ambitious goals for ICV,
asking us to reach 10,000 active volunteers by 2011. This is a real challenge
that requires breaking new ground by repositioning our strategy and giving it a
new dimension. It quickly became crucial to seek the assistance of a partner.
What were the main areas affected by repositioning?
The work of the Quatre Vents consultants was both subtle and relevant. Far from
questioning previously-laid groundwork, they helped change our strategy by
convincing students of the value of ICV as early as possible. Until then,
Ubifrance mainly "pursued" master's students who were near graduation. Quatre
Vents' expertise led us to position ourselves more proactively, to plant the
idea of international volunteering even earlier in the minds of students so that
ICV would naturally become an option and requirement for them.
That is the goal of the site created by the Quatre Vents teams,
www.partir-en-vie.com. It should
spark the desire to volunteer abroad. Last May, an initial chat on the site
attracted over 2,000 students, most of whom were hearing about international
volunteering for the first time. Actions like this lead to further action,
create buzz, and attract new audiences to ICV.