By Kylie MacLellan
LONDON (Reuters) – As Britain prepares to carry out its own trade negotiations for the first time in decades, the government has launched a scheme to recruit and train school-leavers as future commerce experts.
The Department of International Trade, which was created after the 2016 vote to leave the European Union, said its two-year scheme would include placements with teams working on future trade deals and supporting British companies exporting.
“As we leave the European Union and take up trade in our own right as a policy, we have had to develop all the skills to be able to do that,” trade minister Liam Fox said at the launch of the scheme, as school children taking part in a mock trade negotiation noisily bartered over products in the background.
“I wanted young people in particular to look at the world of trade and say ‘that is a profession I would like to go into, that is something I would like to do as a career.'”
Britain cannot formally sign trade deals with other countries until it has left the European Union but has been working to amass expertise, replicate agreements it is part of as a member of the EU and lay the groundwork for new deals.
Those applying for the scheme, which will pay around 30,000 pounds ($ 37,600) a year, do not need to have any qualifications. The department expects most candidates will either be 18-year-old school-leavers or people wanting to switch careers.
It will also include a six-month posting in one of Britain’s trade offices around the world.
“If you want to sell Britain properly you have to know what Britain has to sell but you have to also understand the markets that we are selling into,” Fox told Reuters.
Britain’s Chief Trade Negotiation Adviser Crawford Falconer, who previously worked as New Zealand’s Chief Negotiator, said the scheme was not about filling a gap in trade negotiating talent in Britain.
“We have got plenty of trade negotiating talent but what we need to have is greater diversity and greater choice and for people to enter at a younger age,” he said.
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