Sign up

Have some pie!

Australia: “unequal” employability opportunities for South Asian grads

South Asian graduates have experienced unequal opportunities in accessing employability-related programs as postgraduate international students in Australia, a report has said.

Jobs for temporary residents are limited in Australia, researchers found. Photo: pexels

Graduates also said that careers offices should be proactive in inviting more companies to career fairs

The qualitative study was carried out by Jasvir Kaur Nachatar Singh for the Higher Education Quarterly.

As part of the research 20 South Asian postgraduates were interviewed to explore their experiences in accessing employability-related programs.

It found that South Asian graduates are disadvantaged by generic career advice and resume assistance offered by their university career office.

Opportunities like internships, placements of graduate programs were mostly offered to domestic students, the report said. As a result, South Asian graduates were unable to gain employment in their field of studies.

“We did have career fairs at university every semester. But most of the career fairs I attended just have jobs for PRs [permanent residents] or citizens. TR [temporary resident] jobs are very limited,” one male student from India told researchers.

“Maybe just two or three companies only at the fair takes in international students or TRs. So I did not get the change to gain the jobs at the career fair.”

One female student told researchers that opportunities from companies were limited.

“Very few companies are open for international students – probably less than 10. So, it is very hard. We don’t have much opportunities due [to] the limited numbers of companies that take in international graduates,” she said.

The South Asian graduates in the study took the opportunity to seek assistance from the career’s office at the host university while they were studying.

“However, they found that the careers advice and resume assistance provided by the careers professional were too generic for international students to seek employment in Australia,” the report said.

Researchers added that international graduates wanted specific advice on writing industry-related resumes and connections with industry professionals.

The report said that overall, South Asian graduates have experienced “unequal treatment” in accessing employability programs during their studies.

“They are disappointed with the support on offer from the university careers office. Appropriate assistance to international students could have facilitated their employability while studying and helped them gain successful employment upon graduation,” the report added.

As part of the research, the South Asian graduates provided several recommendations to improve accessibility of employability-related programs.

The graduates urged universities to have partnerships with companies to provide job opportunities to international students.

It was suggested that a quota system could be implemented, where there are jobs allocated proportionally to international students and to domestic students.

“Employers, particularly in the private sector, are opening up their programs to international student applicants”

Other suggestions were that companies could provide lower-position jobs or internships to international students, because they themselves were aware that practical workplace experience was vital and increased their chances of obtaining jobs upon graduation.

The South Asian graduates also said that careers offices should be proactive in inviting more companies to career fairs – such as those that could provide favourable job-related opportunities for international students or graduates on temporary visas.

Shanan Green, chief executive officer of the Australian Association of Graduate Employers, confirmed to The PIE News that there are more graduate opportunities for domestic than international students.

“However our data demonstrates this is changing with the 2023 AAGE Employer Survey reporting a 6% increase in the number of employers opening their programs to international students,” Green said.

“With changes to visa requirements and increasing demand for talent, employers, particularly in the private sector, are opening up their programs to international student applicants.”

Phil Honeywood, executive director at the International Education Association of Australia told The PIE that course related employability is increasingly a shared responsibility between education providers and their students.

“Many universities in Australia have, in fact, upgraded their on-campus careers advice centres to become core business,” he said.

“However, international students must also share some of the responsibility when it comes to being good candidates for jobs. Too often we hear of students from some countries who insist on sharing their accommodation with others from the same culture and language background.”

According to Honeywood, this often results in their English language ability going backwards even after three or four years in Australia.

“When they subsequently go for a job interview we hear back from Australian employers that, on paper, their qualifications are fine but their conversational English is not at the required level to inspire confidence from customers and clients.

“In equal measure, many students fall into the trap of gaining their initial part-time employment from an employer from their same culture.

“This can result in same culture exploitation and an undervaluing of the skills that the young person might otherwise have been able to exhibit in a different more multicultural work environment.”

Honeywood also highlighted what he called a “more worrying trend” where students from South Asia initially enrol with a globally-ranked quality public or private higher education provider but then get persuaded by an onshore education agent to withdraw from that institution and enrol in a much less expensive but low quality private college.

“This change of provider too often results in a sub-optimal education outcome. It can also lead to suspicion, from the prospective Australian employer, about the bona fides of the college that the student has allegedly graduated from,” he added.

Sushil Sukhwani, director of Edwise International told The PIE that, while the study was qualitative, he agreed with its findings.

“To get more attention towards career guidance is very relevant and I feel institutions can easily achieve this,” he said.

Sukhwani told The PIE that it is more complicated to get companies to hire more TRs over citizens and PRs. He explained that governments and local companies cannot offer TRs at the same opportunities as citizens.

Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson told The PIE that the latest survey of domestic and international graduates confirms that a university education opens the door to success in the workplace.

“Growing numbers of international students are securing full-time work within the three-years of graduation on par with their domestic peers. This is a good outcome for graduates and for Australia which needs more talent and skills, not less,” Jackson said.

“Through the current review of Australia’s migration settings, we will continue to advocate for a fit-for-purpose system that better supports employment pathways and encourages more international students to use their education here if they choose to,” she added.

Related articles

Still looking? Find by category:

Add your comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Disclaimer: All user contributions posted on this site are those of the user ONLY and NOT those of The PIE Ltd or its associated trademarks, websites and services. The PIE Ltd does not necessarily endorse, support, sanction, encourage, verify or agree with any comments, opinions or statements or other content provided by users.

To receive The PIE Weekly with our top stories and insights, and other updates from us, please