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Melbourne campaign tackles international graduate employability

International students’ struggle to find employment after graduation in Australia has been compared to women’s fight for equal employment rights during the 1940s in a new campaign launched by Melbourne-based employment and career-advice service Outcome.Life.

The campaign takes inspiration from the Rosie the Riveter campaign, for international graduate employability.Only 34% of employers hire international graduates, according to the campaign

"International students are not given the same opportunity to show what they can do"

The “We Can Do It” campaign, which takes inspiration from the iconic Rosie the Riveter campaign used to recruit and later empower women in the workforce, features six international students’ job search stories to highlight the barriers faced when finding employment.

“The campaign from the 1940s with Rosie the Riveter was incredibly impactful and we draw great inspiration in the message and execution,” Outcome.Life co-founder Gerard Holland said.

Holland told The PIE News the campaign, which is being promoted through posters placed throughout Melbourne’s CBD, inner suburbs and university campuses as well as online stories, aims to empower international students to find work and encourage employers and the wider community to better engage with them.

“Unlike the women from the old and well known poster campaign, international students are not given the same opportunity to show what they can do,” he commented.

“They have barriers that prevent them from succeeding and we all aren’t giving them the same prospects to get ahead and do well.”

Common barriers include misconceptions of international students’ technical abilities, including a perceived low English language competency, employer concerns over visa status and rights, and negative views towards them, according to Holland.

Common barriers include a perceived low English language competency

“We just want international graduates to be given a fair go; once employers have experienced their skills, passion and dedication via an internship, they’re generally always blown away and want to hire them,” he said.

“Australia could do better,” agreed Mary Ann Seow, president of ISANA, whose members work in international student services.

She said international students had an expectation that their qualifications would be recognised by employers, but difficulties finding employment meant those expectations were not being met.

According to Seow, the benefits of helping international students find post-study work ran both ways.

“It seems a waste to educate these students and then send them away,” she said.

“If we improve the employability opportunities for international students, ISANA believes that all graduates and the economy would benefit.”

His company regularly heard from students who felt abandoned by their university

The campaign coincides with the findings of an upcoming report by International Alumni Job Network and Nielsen that just under three-quarters of international students were satisfied with the return on investment of their education.

During the release of the initial findings, IAJN founder Shane Dillon told The PIE News his company regularly heard from students who felt abandoned by their university and that further work needed to be done, particularly around employability, to improve satisfaction levels.

Holland, whose company organises internships and professional year placements, echoed Dillon’s remarks, commenting “graduate employability is the most important metric for international education.”

“Students have worked out that traditional ‘university rankings’ are irrelevant as they are based around ‘research’ and are now focusing more on employability.

“For the Australian international education industry to stay relevant, there must be a focus on employability, as this is how we will be judged in the future,” he said.

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