Most University students are unaware of the vast career opportunities offered by the European Union. Cristina Cefai talks to EU Careers Ambassador, Christopher Scicluna, in order to find out more about his position and how to reap the benefits of such prospects.
The life of a University Student is one of endless questions but perhaps the most dreaded enquiry of them all is that of being asked what’s planned for post-university life. However, all hope is not lost as the opportunities offered by the European Union have helped in providing new doors for students across faculties. The twelve golden stars emblazoned on the royal blue background that have come to symbolise this phenomenal institution, might as well be wishing stars guiding hopeful Maltese graduates North by the plane-load, unless they happen to get lost in the never-ending open tabs on their browser and all ensuing paperwork.
Christopher Scicluna, this year’s EU Careers Ambassador, was just the right person to talk to in a bid to sort through the red tape and blue hyperlinks, as he is a dedicated and inspirational student who juggles his coursework with the numerous weekly emails received with queries concerning careers in Europe. Christopher applied to fill the vacancy in his first year at university, eager to pass on his knowledge of EU affairs, governance and politics which he had picked up on in Sixth Form. He says that he was motivated by his desire to share his knowledge and by the feeling that there needed to be more of a dialogue on the subject between the average students, especially about the numerous opportunities offered. Applying to this post was daunting initially especially when he was faced with stiff competition by other students but he believes that the fact that he is an undergraduate and that he is constantly on campus were assets to his application.
The EU Careers Ambassador is responsible for the promotion of careers and traineeships offered by the European Union. This position, created in 2010, is a point of contact both for individual students as well as for the media and Christopher believes that one of the most significant tasks is dispelling misconceptions that students might have about EU careers as well as helping them face their individual concerns and fears. The other branch of the occupation entails informing students through specific presentations and talks which allow him to become more approachable to students, such as that which he recently gave at the ‘Let’s JEF Out: Empowering Youth for Employment’.
Although he is based on campus, an EU careers Ambassador hopes to attract ‘students and beyond’, meaning graduates too. Naturally he has to report back to EPSO – the European Personnel Selection Office – which is his point of contact within the EU and which organises regular Facebook classes whereby EU officials explain certain themes in detail in order to ensure that their Ambassadors are up to date and can offer the best possible service.
When asked about where he sees the office in Malta going under his leadership Chris said, “Unfortunately there is no General Graduate Competition this year and consequently, I fear that interest might wane because students might hear less about potential careers in general. Thus, I am making it my goal to be as accessible to students as possible in order to maintain their awareness about the position and to expose students to the possibility of traineeships and that of participating in various competitions including a translating one coming up this summer.” He hopes to do this through the numerous student organisations on campus and by making good use of the media including by appearing on national television stations.
Christopher says that the process to get a position within the prestigious situation, although lengthy, is straightforward and that there is guidance every step of the way. A computer based test is carried out when interested graduates sign up for prospective careers and the best performers are then shortlisted and interviewed in Brussels. High-achieving candidates are then placed on the reserved list of prospective EU employees which is then consulted by all the institutions. Knowledge of two of the official languages of the EU is imperative, a requirement that the vast majority of Maltese applicants easily satisfy owing to their fluency in English as well as Maltese, their mother tongue. There are two categories of jobs within this sphere: Administrative jobs requiring specific degree, and Assistant or non-graduate jobs. The latter category is open to interested conference organisers, financial assistants, audio-visual technicians, language editors, social workers, nuclear inspectors and nurses amongst others meaning that the EU is a possible avenue for practically everyone.
Christopher’s enthusiasm and humility at having been chosen as Ambassador by EPSO are perfectly apt as not only does he have an exciting year ahead as he’ll continue to be the ambassador for a second consecutive year, but he also recognises the great possibility of a bright future ahead. “I am meeting scores of new people and making contacts not only here at the University but with other EU careers Ambassadors and EU officials too. At the back of my mind, I know that this is a fantastic stepping stone to whatever EU career I would like to personally pursue in the future.”