Taking UK STEM undergraduates to China
Huawei’s Seeds for the Future programme enables students to learn more about Chinese industry and culture
In 2011, after noting the increasing number of Chinese students coming to the UK in order to train and study, the former universities minister David Willetts chaired a roundtable discussion with university chancellors and China-based businesses to discuss how the flow could work the other way. In response, Huawei initiated their Seeds for the Future programme in the UK, which is designed to mould the next generation of information and communication technologies professionals.
Seeds for the Future takes 50 STEM students on a four-week, all expenses paid trip to China that includes language instruction in Beijing, technical training at Huawei’s Shenzhen factory and visits to other businesses such as Hyundai and Arup.
“It brings the sector to life,” says Philip Candice, director of public policy at Huawei’s UK and Ireland office. “Students can see the direct implications of what they are studying back home and that is really valuable for them… We receive more than 500 applications, of which we shortlist 100 to interview before offering 50 places.”
Student feedback has honed the content of the programme in recent years and helps shape the future experience of others. “We’ve factored in more opportunities to try out technology – visits to car production plants and opportunities to try out electric scooters and drones, for example,” says Candice. There are also practical exercises on each of the five days spent at Huawei factory in Shenzhen, many of which focus on the emerging Internet of Things.
The students are assessed on their language and technology training performance during the programme. Alumni are also invited to Huawei’s annual “STEM Skills to STEM Careers” event that brings together graduate employees, senior university contacts and the British Council, which includes Seeds for the Future’s 50 students in its Generation UK – China initiative target.
Participating in the programme has enabled students to gain employment across the telecommunications sector.
“It’s always nice to see Seeds alumni applying and getting positions with us in the UK business,” says Candice. “Some of our alumni have also gone on to work for some of our biggest UK customers, such as Vodafone, TalkTalk and BT. Others, never having previously thought of China in terms of their career, have decided to go back to China and improve their Mandarin and to work and live there. The programme has positively influenced a lot of young lives.”
Seeds for the Future is part of a broader, ongoing collaboration between Huawei and the higher education sector that includes undergraduate training, graduate recruitment and an array of research and development projects.
“From a research and development perspective, we are involved with more than 20 universities, whether on chipset design, photonics or graphene research,” says Candice. “These amount to more than 50 individual R&D Projects across the UK… There are certain universities where there is an awful lot of engagement at multiple levels.”
These include the University of Southampton, which regularly supplies graduates for the Seeds for the Future programme and works closely with Huawei on photonics research. The University of Manchester, whose students have also taken part in Seeds for the Future, collaborates with Huawei on graphene research and other projects, while the University of Cambridge is involved in Huawei’s 5G research and also houses its own Huawei research centre.
Applications for the next Seeds for the Future UK programme are open until 28 February 2019. In order to be considered, UK passport-holding undergraduate STEM students must submit a 500-word essay demonstrating an interest in China, the Mandarin language, Huawei and in telecoms and technology issues.
Learn more about Huawei in education.