Australia: Job market dire for foreign students
International graduates find it extremely difficult to get professional work in Australia, despite having qualifications in areas of supposed skills shortages, a three-year study has found.
The accounting, nursing and engineering graduates in the study encountered multiple barriers to getting a job, including a tough jobs market and local firms unwilling to take on staff without permanent residency.
The Deakin University report, Australian International Graduates and the Transition to Employment, bluntly concludes international graduates without a permanent visa are unlikely to find work in their discipline area in Australia.
“According to our interviews with employers, academics, peak bodies and international graduates, without permanent residency (PR), international graduates are unlikely to secure employment in their field in Australia,” the report states.
The report also found racism remained a problem for students, with “many [participants] in this study experienced discrimination in some form during their time in Australia”.
A senior bureaucrat in the Department of Immigration and Citizenship who consults with Australian employers extensively, was quoted in the report as saying there is an “inherent degree of racism amongst middle management in Australia”.
These issues could put the international education industry, the country’s fourth largest export sector and worth $15 billion in annual revenue, at risk as international students consider local work experience an expected part of studying in Australia.
The study’s authors found international students and graduates continue to see an Australian tertiary education as a pathway to permanent migration.
The study confirms multiple reports in The Australian Financial Review detailing the difficulties accounting graduates, and particularly international graduates, have in finding work locally, despite industry bodies CPA Australia and Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand maintaining there is a shortage of accountants.
Accounting, nursing and engineering are all on the Skilled Occupation List, a list of in-demand occupations, meaning international graduates can obtain a 485 Temporary Graduate Visa and work in Australia for up to 18 months.
The report stated “many employers have a blanket rule that precludes international graduates from applying unless they have permanent residency status”, with the fear that international graduates “represented a greater risk of flight than a local graduate”.
Employers had a range of issues with international graduates beyond their visa status, including “poor communication skills, inadequate soft skills, and lack of local work experience”. The authors say universities need to take responsibility for ensuring international graduates are job ready, including assisting the overseas students to improve their communication skills and general job readiness.
The report was based on a qualitative and quantitative study of 107 international students and 93 non-students.
The peak university body, Universities Australia, will run an awareness campaign about post-study work visas next year. “In 2015, we will be embarking on an awareness raising campaign targeting the business community but this is still in early stages of development,” Universities Australia chief executive, Belinda Robinson said. “In addition to this, all universities offer employment support services including activities such as resume writing and interview workshops and internship opportunities which naturally help students gain employment post study.”
The accounting bodies, in a joint statement, said they had “a number of programs in place at the local, state and federal level, and, through universities around Australia, aimed at supporting international students”.