Report highlights lack of job support for international students

06 August, 2015

Many international students struggle to find suitable post-study employment, with opportunities inadequately coordinated between academic institutions, employers and local governments, according to a recent comparative study of Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden.

Bridging the gap between study and work: key local actors of a coordinated job entry support system for international students. Source - Train and Retain, SVR, 2015

The report, Train and Retain, which was conducted by the Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration (SVR) based on a survey of 238 public higher education institutions across the four countries, found that despite more generous post-study reforms introduced in the host countries and high student willingness to stay, several obstacles remain.

Simon Morris-Lange, author of the study, said, “Many international students require intensive career support, but instead they encounter a poorly coordinated patchwork of occasional careers fairs, job application training and chance acquaintances with service staff and company representatives that may or may not be able to help them.”

In terms of institutional collaboration with local government, employment offices, economic development agencies and local businesses, none of the four countries achieved a ratio of over 35 per cent in any category.

“In order to systematically retain more international students, local actors need to break out of their organisational silos and start sharing information in order to coordinate their individual career support,” said Dr Cornelia Schu, Director of SVR.

The report found that institutions in Canada were most likely to have specific career support services for international students (58 per cent), followed by Germany (56), the Netherlands (52) and Sweden (30). However, SVR found that while students in Canada received job support throughout their academic programmes and 80 per cent of Dutch institutions targeted newly arrived international students with job advice, German universities concentrated efforts on the latter stages of courses.

Canada also had the most favourable students-to-career staff ratio at 2,922:1; Germany and the Netherlands had over double this rate.

There was often a duplication of services that international students found confusing, SVR reported. Forty-nine per cent of German and 38 per cent of Canadian institutions had two or more job application training providers offering job entry support.

In terms of recruitment on campus, German institutions were the most likely to have large and medium-sized businesses actively hiring – the highest ratios at 55 per cent and 38 per cent respectively. However, small and very small businesses were more commonly recruiting at Canadian campuses – 28 per cent and 26 per cent. SVR said that international students were a “blind spot” in the human resource strategies of Germany’s small companies.

International students are regarded as model immigrants in the four destinations, SVR said, because they are young, educated and already equipped with host country experiences and credentials, while declining birth rates have made immigration a necessary factor in sustaining population growth.

Nonetheless, the report found that 30 per cent of non-EU students that graduated from German institutions between January 2011 and April 2012 and were still living in the country in early 2013 were still searching for employment, with 11.6 per cent being completely unemployed.

Dr Felix Streiter, Director of the Center for Science and Humanities of Stiftung Mercator, a private foundation promoting integration in Europe, said, “Germany needs its international university graduates. Ensuring that they are well integrated into German society and the world of work is a challenge that needs to be tackled jointly by universities, municipalities and business.”

The major barriers to finding employment for international students, according to SVR, are: insufficient language skills; lack of host country work experience; hesitant employers; lack of personal and professional networks; lack of job entry support; legal barriers; and dropping out of academic studies.

The full report is available online.

Matthew Knott
News Editor



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