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Lack of coordination hampers international graduate recruitment

Better liaison between institutions, the public sector and business is required to ensure international graduates get the best start on the career ladder.

The report states a significant proportion of small businesses in Canada are actively hiring international students. Photo: ILSC Montreal

"This study gives us some insights that we can act on to improve the transition from study to work for international students"

This is the main finding of research into graduate retention in the labour market in Canada, Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands.

The study, conducted by the Research Unit at the Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration (SVR), also shows that international talent is a “blind spot” for small businesses in the three European countries.

Meanwhile, it found careers support is strongest in Canada, with 58% of colleges and universities providing career counselling, internship placement programmes and other support services specifically tailored to international students.

Based on a representative survey of 238 public HEIs in the four countries, the new report looks at why many international students, which are “presumed to mitigate future talent shortages”, struggle to find employment post-graduation.

This is despite a “high willingness to stay” and legislation to improve post-study work options.

“If I’m an international student and I want to stay, I have to rely on chancing upon a certain service that may or may not be there”

It recommends a joint effort by HEIs, employers and policymakers to improve job entry support.

A lack of coordination between these bodies is apparent even in Canada, where students are most likely to find careers support.

Just 26% of HEIs join forces with public service providers to offer career support to international students, followed by 24% in the Netherlands, and 17% in both Germany and Sweden.

Engagement with local businesses is also low, with 28% of German and Dutch, 21% of Canadian and 13% of Swedish HEIs collaborating regularly with employers on mentoring, internships and other professional support for international students.

Simon Morris-Lange, deputy head of SVR’s research unit and the report’s co-author said that the lack of coordination is the “Achilles’ heel of the four countries’ transition management.

“If I’m an international student and I want to stay, I have to rely on chance encounters and chancing upon a certain service that may or may not be there,” he told The PIE News.

He said Canada’s relative edge may be down to Canada having a longer history of focusing on labour market integration, compared with European universities’ traditional focus on research.

“In German, Dutch or Swedish universities, many don’t have a career services yet; whereas in the UK, in Canada and the US you have a longer tradition of these things because HEIs see themselves as agents who feed the market with skilled workers,” he commented.

“In German, Dutch or Swedish universities, many don’t have a career services yet; whereas in Canada you have a longer tradition of these things”

Swedish HEIs have particularly low levels of support, with just 30% of careers services tailoring information sessions on its labour market, job application training and other career support to international students.

This may be influenced by the introduction of non-EU student tuition fees in 2011 that left many institutions “shell-shocked”, Morris-Lange explained.

In contrast, 80% of careers services at Dutch institutions target newly arrived international students and those about to graduate.

When it comes to hiring international students, large businesses are much more likely to actively recruit international talent across the board.

Staff in German HEIs reported that 55% of large businesses and 38% of medium sized businesses are interested in hiring international graduates. This compares with 40% and 37% in Canada, 48% and 40% in the Netherlands, and 27% and 13% in Sweden, respectively.

Canada is also the only country where a significant proportion of small businesses are actively hiring international students, while smaller companies in the three European countries are “often unaware of the international talent training on their doorstep”, the report states.

“It also has to do with resource to some extent – they fear that they won’t be able to integrate them properly or to go through the whole red tape, but then again oftentimes they also overestimate the effort that it takes,” commented Morris-Lange.

“This study gives us some insights that we can act on… to improve the transition from study to work for international students,” Janine Knight-Grofe, research manager, membership, public policy and communications at CBIE, which helped to distribute the survey, told The PIE News.

“We hope that sharing this international study with relevant government and non-government actors, as well as with institutions, will spur the coordination recommended to further set international students up for success.”

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