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Pushing the link between international education and employability

Earlier this month, a British Council poll revealed a third of the UK population believed that they would have had a better job if they had studied abroad. Citing examples of students who had been language assistants abroad, the poll was another reminder that, in a shrinking world, graduates are competing for jobs with candidates in the global marketplace and not just in their own backyards.

Working as a teaching assistant abroad is one example of students adding global skills to their cv. photo: British Council

The deciding factor in today’s market is how vocationally astute graduates are

Aside from the obvious linguistic advantages, Dr Jo Beall, The British Council’s director of education and society, says that studying abroad offers a holistic benefit to a student’s employability: “By choosing to live and work in a foreign environment, a student is learning new problem solving skills, understanding new and potentially complex systems and structures, and adapting to new cultures. All of these skills…are really valued by UK employers, particularly those who are keen to have business overseas.”

In fact, most employers, wherever they are based, are of the same opinion. Speaking at an event to mark the 25th anniversary of the Erasmus EU student mobility scheme earlier this year, Steve Beswick, Director of Education at Microsoft UK, explained how the global Microsoft corporation needed to rely on “global-ready” staff who could move to Delhi or Sydney, for example, and adapt instantly. Those with international experience were one step ahead, he explained.

Of course, it’s not enough to simply be studying abroad, the deciding factor in today’s market is how vocationally astute graduates are. This is acknowledged by Androulla Vassilou, EU Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport. “We live in a world in constant transformation… our young people have to cope with increasingly complex tasks and constant change. The jobs of today – and even more those of tomorrow – call for new mind-sets and attitudes.”

Given the premium on globally-oriented employable graduates, then, how are international educational institutions themselves working to deliver work-ready students upon course completion?

Her experience in international education suggested careers instruction was not keeping pace with academic standards

Language schools are in a prime position to offer courses geared towards international competitiveness – and also able to cater for an audience who may not have studied abroad as part of an undergraduate degree programme. The need to provide programming with employment in mind is put into sharp relief by Stephen Shortt, the managing director of Alpha College of English in Dublin, Ireland.

“Youth unemployment in Spain and Italy is at 49% and 31% respectively. Poland, France, Sweden, Belgium and Finland are all over 20%. The financial papers keep referring to recent graduates as ‘Europe’s Lost Generation’, and we want to help them avoid that life sentence,” he says.

Other than helping students improve their communication skills in English, “the international language of business”, Alpha’s USP, when it comes to employability, is the sessions students have with Patrick Shortt, founding director of Alpha College of English and an occupational psychologist. Shortt helps students find career options through psychometric tests that include personality profiling, aptitude testing and interest inventories, as well as offering advice on persuasive CV and interview techniques.

“The added capacity for practical experience led to much more robust outcomes”

An equally hands-on approach is offered by EduGold Careers Services, a company set up by Germaine Broadbent in the UK after her experience in international education suggested careers instruction was not keeping pace with academic standards.

To help students skill up for job interviews and selection processes after completing a language course, EduGold sends out qualified careers counsellors to visit schools and meet students on a part-time basis, either for a fixed appointment or drop-in basis, and offer advice tailored to their specific situation, often revolving around job search techniques and CV skills.

“Uptake by schools has been steady” reports Broadbent. “From January 2013, EduGold counselors will be present in all EC English Language schools in the UK and are in discussion with several other UK language schools including those running junior programmes.” [more..]

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2 Responses to Pushing the link between international education and employability

  1. Same linkage holds true and has been confirmed by research on demands by employers in U.S. marketplace. See my chapter titled “Employer Perspectives of International Education” in new SAGE Handbook of International Higher Education. And I blog on this theme at global career compass.

    Martin Tillman, President
    Global Career Compass

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