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Political rhetoric is “substantial barrier” to int’l grad employment – report

Despite similarities between countries’ understanding of the need for post-study work rights, political rhetoric and employer awareness remain common barriers for international graduates seeking employment, according to a new report.

Many of the students surveyed saw a disconnect between their studies and their work after studies. Photo: Pexels/ Tim Gouw

The survey echoed findings from an Education New Zealand report on employers' perspectives

The Global Perspectives on International Student Employability report, which compares post-study work around the world, found most policymakers had a deep understanding of the importance of graduate employment.

“There is a coordination problem and we as a sector should own it more”

“What really struck me was to see that all of the policymakers… do understand the whole importance of this on attraction,” explained lead author Brett Berquist.

“They also understand the potential benefits to their employment markets in really sophisticated ways.

“I found a lot more similarities in the approach among the different countries than I had anticipated.”

Speaking with The PIE News, Berquist, who is also the University of Auckland’s director international, added there were similar levels of public support for post-study work rights, but political rhetoric remained a substantial barrier.

“It’s not so much the variation among the policy wonks, but the way the elected officials are playing [the benefits or perceived downside of graduate employment] for their gain in terms of the polling,” he said.

The report, released by the International Education Association of Australia in early July, also included preliminary findings of a survey looking into the post-study work stream of Australia’s 485 visa.

Taking in responses from over 800 participants, the survey found 37% of graduates who remained in their study country to work obtained fulltime employment within their field of study.

A further 13% had found part-time or casual work in their field of study, while 16% were still looking for a job. The remainder found some level of work outside their study area.

While overall employment levels were high, only 47% of respondents said they were satisfied with the 485 visa, and survey co-author Ly Tran said many students saw a disconnect between their studies and their work after studies.

“There is a high risk of education and job mismatch for those who remained in Australia compared to those who returned to their home country,” she said.

“They struggle to find jobs while being on the 485 visa.”

Tran, whose main role is an associate professor at Deakin University, added the conditions of the post-study work visa, which allows for up to two years work for bachelor’s studies and four years of PhD studies, also had an impact on graduates finding jobs.

Students who were still looking for work a few months after graduation were particularly impacted, as the time remaining to work was less than the minimum two years many employers were seeking, and some graduates were returning to study to extend their stay.

“There is a high risk of education and job mismatch for those who remained in Australia”

The survey, also facilitated by Mark Rahimi and George Tan, also found employers had limited understanding or awareness of international graduates’ work entitlements, echoing similar findings from an Education New Zealand report on employers’ perceptions also released in July.

“Employer perception and understanding of the 485 visa, they have full legal rights to work in Australia… but most employers don’t know what the visa is,” Tran said.

“They have little or no awareness.”

Berquist said while the study focussed on Australia, the results were applicable to other countries, and that education providers needed to increase their focus on improving outcomes.

“There is a coordination problem and we as a sector should own it more,” he said.

“We shouldn’t simply say well that’s on government. We’ve got policy we’ve wanted, now we’re getting the students, what happens after they graduate?

“We need to work more with the government, work with local businesses and try to have that conversation,” Berquist added.

The full results of the survey into the perceptions of 485 visa holders will be released in early August.

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