Corporate scholarships play a very crucial role

The efforts of local companies in supporting the university education of talented Caymanian students can sometimes go unnoticed, but in fact have made a significant difference over the years.

For instance offshore law firm Maples and Calder alone has since 2006 invested over US$2 million in its scholarship programme and training scheme and thereby directly assisted over 50 Caymanians in the pursuit of their under-graduate and post-graduate professional level certifications and supported many other Caymanian staff members in the pursuit of their personal and professional development locally, according to Maples Partner Dale Crowley.

The Educational Scholarship Trust Fund of the Insurance Managers Association of Cayman was formed in 1994 and funds the overseas studies of nine Caymanian students in fields as diverse as management, communication, music and film.

Education Minister Rolston Anglin confirms corporate scholarships “are crucial to the Islands’ overall tertiary education strategy” for two reasons: “Firstly the government cannot fund the Islands’ entire demand for tertiary education. Secondly the commitment of the private sector to engage our very best and brightest students and fund their education is a very important opportunity to develop them fully,” he says.

Additionally it allows for companies to better plan for the future, incorporating their scholarship recipients in their plans, Anglin adds.

Most companies regard scholarship, training and development schemes as part of their corporate citizenship to offer scholarships to students.

“PwC’s motivation with its scholarship programme is to give outstanding Caymanian candidates an opportunity at a challenging and respected career, which thereby enhances and benefits the knowledge and education of our community as a whole,” says PwC Assurance and Business Development Manager Angilynn Chan.

Local firm dms, which itself was built on strong, successful Caymanian entrepreneurship believes it is critical to develop these skills at a young age, notes Krista Pell.

“Investing in the youth of Cayman through scholarships and employment opportunities allows dms to build a company that not only serves international clients, but also local needs,” she says.

Phil Jackson of UBS Cayman acknowledges that training and scholarship support are partially a requirement when dealing with the Immigration Department.

But more importantly “part of our corporate community responsibility is to provide further development and training opportunities for young Caymanians,” he said.

Maples also believes that it has an obligation as a corporate citizen in the Cayman Islands to promote positive development in education, literacy, sports and the arts, says Crowley.

“As such, we are committed to ensuring young Caymanians receive the best education and training possible as evidenced by the continued development of our training, scholarship and articled clerk programmes as well as our continued support of such educational based programmes as the Golden Apple Awards, the Cayman Whistling Duck Book Award and the George Town Library project.”

Who can apply?

For students that seek financial, academic and professional support to kick-start their career, a wide range of scholarships is offered by Caymanian firms. Typically these require good grades, often four to five IGCSE/CXC passes with a minimum grade B or 2 or a GPA of 3.0 or higher. In addition, the applicant’s general personality, interests and attitude toward learning will also be an important factor in the application process.

“Our primary criteria is that they are Caymanian, are of good character, give back to the community, demonstrate financial need, excel in the balance of academics and extracurricular and will be studying an area that is relevant to the dms group of companies,” explains Pell.

What kinds of scholarships exist?

Although very similar as far as the application and selection process are concerned, available corporate scholarships in Cayman feature a wide range both in terms of the fields of study and in the extent of the support that is provided.

Some, but not all, scholarships require the proof of a financial need and not all programmes are limited to the specific field of the corporate sponsor.

Maples and Calder for instance has two scholarship programmes, one in law and another in non-legal fields, which in the recent past included anything from finance and biology to occupational therapy.

UBS Cayman, which in the past offered scholarships for non-related subjects such as law and medicine, now increasingly tries to find candidates who want to pursue more closely related fields to its business such as accounting or business administration, says Jackson.

While many programmes are designed to enable studies abroad, some are executed together with the University College of the Cayman Islands.

This will also have an impact on the amount of financial support that is granted as part of a scholarship, as overseas studies are typically much more costly.

For this reason, some corporate sponsors have shifted their priority to local initiatives. “We have actually stepped away from overseas courses,” says Alistair Walters, managing partner at local law firm Campbells, “because for the same total amount of money we can help more kids instead of one“.

“All partners in the firm have children or are very interested in education. As employers we have come to appreciate the critical importance of education,” he explains.

Instead of college and university education, Campbells scholarship fund focuses on high school children and supports them in getting into A level programmes.

College, university or professional development scholarships are available from many of Cayman’s law, accountancy and other financial services firms as well as insurers and banks.

However, scholarships are not concentrated on the financial services sector alone.

In the hospitality industry the Ritz-Carlton, for example, introduced a new Grand Cayman Culinary scholarship in 2011.

The recipient will receive a full three-year scholarship to Johnson & Wales in the US at one of its four campuses.

“In our efforts to recruit young Caymanians to work in our hotel, we’ve seen some tremendous passion and potential among aspiring chefs,” said Vice President and General Manager Franz Ferschke. “We created The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman Culinary Scholarship because it is important to us to offer these talented young people a chance for formal university culinary training so that they can return to Cayman and perpetuate its reputation as the emerging culinary capital of the Caribbean.”

Like its financial service counterparts the Ritz-Carlton’s culinary staff will provide guidance and referrals to the student.

During their studies most corporate sponsors monitor the academic performance of the scholarship recipients on annual basis, generally requiring them to maintain a minimum grade B average.

However, this is important to ensure that the students are receiving the benefits of the education that the scholarship provides, says Chan.

Beyond the financial benefit

In most cases a scholarship exceeds the important financial benefits, by offering job placements and academic support.

“We offer work placements during the summer holidays and an informal mentoring programme for students studying accounting or finance,” says Jackson.

Chan adds that PwC offers scholarship students summer placements so that they can gain hands on experience and to earn some additional money while they are not in school.

Crowley notes that Maples provides opportunities for work experience for its legal scholarship recipients during their breaks including their summer breaks.

“We also employ a number of legal scholarship recipients attending the Cayman Islands Law School on a part-time basis throughout the year.”

Another important aspect is that Maples’ legal scholarship recipients have access to the resources of the law firm and are permitted to use the firm’s library and technology facilities to further their studies.

“In addition, legal scholarship recipients can frequently be found discussing the intricacies of law and the practice of law with our lawyers,” Crowley says.

Many of the Caymanians to whom Maples and Calder granted Articles of Clerkship were legal scholarship recipients. “We have qualified 13 Caymanians as Cayman Islands attorneys-at-law since 2006 and expect to qualify three more this year,” he says. “There are currently four Caymanians undertaking their Articles with us each of whom was a legal scholarship recipient.”

After the scholarship

Not all scholarship programmes require the candidate to be employed with the sponsor after graduation.

While Maples, UBS or the Ritz-Carlton say that they would welcome if their scholarship recipients decided to become employees of the firms later on, this is not part of the scholarship agreement.

At PwC scholarship recipients are required to work with the firm after their schooling is done for three years. However during that time they will study to become a qualified accountant.

“More recently we have had four scholarship recipients who have all joined the firm after their university studies, went on to pass their CPA exams – also through funding from the firm – and have all been promoted to senior associates,” says Chan.

Dms likewise employs all of its former scholarship recipients and has a great incentive to do so because they are “outstanding candidates”, says Pell.

Anglin, who himself was a scholarship recipient, says: “Personally, my experience on a corporate scholarship was extremely beneficial. I was held to high academic standards and able to gain valuable work experience during my holiday breaks.

Knowing that I had a job at the end of my studies was a huge plus.”

Kadi Merren who received a scholarship from PwC and recently qualified as an accountant says her experience with the PwC “was absolutely fantastic”.

“I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive [human resources department] and group of partners. Every couple of months during college I would get an e-mail asking about how school was going and if I needed anything. PwC was always interested in how I was doing and it was really great to have that extra support. The staff will go out of their way to make sure that everyone is happy with their position and is always willing to help out in any situation.”

She would encourage Caymanian students to apply. “It is great to get linked to a firm from a young age because it not only pays for your schooling – which at times allows someone an opportunity to go to college, who wouldn’t have been able to otherwise – and guarantees them a job when they graduate, which in this economy can be very difficult.”