Empowering International Students with Employability Skills

June 16, 2023
Nikki Meller
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Fostering employability skills is a fundamental aspect of providing a quality education and it is crucial to acknowledge the profound impact that this has on the overall student experience. With the changing work patterns, student demands, and the constant growth in the education system, it is essential to continue investing in graduate employability.  

Thanks to sustained efforts over the last decade, Australia has positioned itself as a global leader in employability by focusing on producing "work- and life-ready graduates – graduates with a propensity for action and a capacity for application" (Lawrence, 2019). Australian graduates are in high demand, with QILT data indicating that 87% of undergraduates find employment within four months of graduating and 85% of supervisors are satisfied with the quality of their graduate employees (QILT, 2022).

Despite Australia's strong track record in producing work-ready graduates, there remains a concerning disparity between the employment rates of international and domestic graduates. In fact, recent data shows that international graduates are experiencing significantly lower employment rates than their domestic counterparts, with a gap of 16.8% for undergraduates, 17.4% at postgraduate coursework level, and 6.3% at postgraduate research level. This not only has negative implications for the international graduates themselves, but also for the Australian education sector and economy as a whole. Addressing this issue and ensuring that all graduates have equal access to employment opportunities should be a top priority for the sector moving forward.

One of the major social and economic issues faced by international students seeking employment in Australia is the language barrier, and familiarity with the cultural norms of the Australian workplace. They may lack professional networks and experience, which can hinder their ability to secure suitable employment.

This not only affects their financial well-being but can also impact their mental health and overall well-being. It can also have economic implications for Australia, as international students contribute significantly to the Australian economy through tuition fees and other expenses but may not be able to fully contribute to the workforce due to the ongoing challenges they face.

For international students wishing to pursue post-study work or long-term employment in Australia, it is crucial to view their challenges and barriers through a social lens. Multiple studies conducted in different markets have identified common obstacles that international students encounter. These barriers include foreign language challenges, lack of exposure to the work environment of the Australian market, insufficient professional networks, and employer misperceptions or a lack of awareness of work policies.

Addressing these challenges requires a comprehensive approach that considers the social dynamics at play. It entails not only providing language support and intercultural training but also fostering an inclusive and supportive work environment that values diversity and promotes equal opportunities. Building stronger networks and collaborations between educational institutions, employers, and community organisations can help bridge the gap and provide international students with the necessary resources and support systems to navigate the complexities of the Australian job market.

The Solution

In the Australian context, students need to focus on developing a range of professional and personal transferrable skills, to enhance their employability and succeed in the global workforce.

In order to build positive relationships with International student communities and create a more sustainable job ready future for them in the Australian job market, we must prioritise legitimacy, credibility, and trust. Aligning with the community expectations of international student employment and providing accurate information about the Australian workplace practice, trust can be gained through a demonstrated commitment to doing the right thing by the student community. CREDuED believes in building a sustainable Australian workforce for all.

CREDuED ‘Working on Work’ Employability Program offers the development of the following skills which is aligned with an entrepreneurial and growth mindset:

Creativity and innovation: Through engagement activities in the workshops, students will be able to think creatively, generate new ideas, and be willing to take risks to solve problems in real life scenarios.

Communication skills: Students will practice being able to communicate effectively with colleagues, clients, and customers in a professional and culturally appropriate manner.

Adaptability: Students will be taught skills in how to adapt to new situations and be flexible in their approach to problem-solving.

Resilience: Resilience and Confidence are key to being job ready. Students will learn strategies to learn from setbacks and how a growth mindset can be activated from these setbacks.

Leadership: In small groups, students will problem solve and given the opportunity to lead a team, motivating others to achieve common goals. This group activity will be in the context of an Australian workplace.

Social Networking: Students will be shown how to build and maintain a professional social networks to enhance their career pathways and prospects.

The face-to-face workshop and online micro course component of the program offers an authentic learning experience and students can learn at their own pace, working through practical examples and easy to follow templates to download and use. Topics covered include critical thinking, confidence building, resume writing and interview practice. The face-to-face workshop also includes an immersive virtual reality (VR) experience challenging learners to think outside the box with different career pathways and opportunities.

By developing these entrepreneurial skills, international students who attend CREDuED's ‘Working on Work’ Employability Program will be better equipped to navigate the dynamic and ever-changing Australian job market and stand out to potential employers. Employment opportunities will also help individuals develop abilities and skills and encourages a socially inclusive and productive society.