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Australian employers favour permanent residence, high IELTS score

Leon Saw

Thu Jul 19 2012


NEW research by Deakin University suggests Australian employers are more inclined to hire job applicants who are Australian residents or citizens. Leon Saw reports.

New research suggests international student graduates have a better shot at being employed in Australia if they have permanent residency or citizenship.

Researchers from Melbourne’s Deakin University discovered this trend in the course of their study into the employability of international student graduates in Australia.

The  preliminary findings were presented by the research’s project manager and senior research fellow at Deakin University’s Faculty of Arts and Education, Dr. Cate Gribble, at the Council of International Students Australia (CISA) 2nd National Conference in Brisbane last week.

Dr Gribble said the main obstacle between an international graduate and employment in Australia is his or her visa.

“A lot of employers require applicants to have permanent residency,” she said.

The research project, titled Investigating mismatches between Australian international graduate destinations and skills shortages, was funded by the Australian Research Council, and led by Deakin University.

It will span three years and look at international graduate employability in three industries currently experiencing skills shortages in Australia – accounting, engineering, and nursing,

“We have been interviewing international students in those three areas from three universities, two in Victoria, one in New South Wales,” Dr Gribble said.

“We interview students just before they graduate to find out what their plans are (and) then try and track them and interview them 12 months afterwards.

“We also interview employers, industry groups, governments, academics, and student advisors.”

Aside from permanent residency, other obstacles include acquiring a score of eight in all modules of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test.

Employers also look for graduates who communicate well and possess solid networks and work experience.

“A lot of international graduates do not have the same sort of networks and work experience that the local graduates would have,” Dr Gribble said.

She said international students “need to be thinking in first year what they want to achieve and what they need to do to reach that goal” in order to improve their employability in Australia.

“They also need to increase their networks, and perhaps scale down their expectations and gain work experience at a smaller firm,” she added.

“A lot of international students appear unaware of the importance of work experience. They focus a lot on the academic side because perhaps that’s what’s important in their home country. However, in Australia, I think the reality is that you need to have work experience as well as reasonable grades.”

Dr. Gribble said she understood students faced “parental expectations” with regards to grades and that universities tended to emphasise academic excellence over extracurricular activities.

But she said international students still needed to participate in a range of activities and engage more with the local community, as this could significantly boost their job propsects.

Related story: The PR PRoblem: Graduate job prospect for international students in Australia