International Student Employment; The Good, The Bad, and The Misunderstood

The meeting at Drake International was a historic one. The conference room table could be likened to King Arthur’s round table of legend. Around the table sat representatives from a number of large universities, vocational education institutes, government representatives from Study Melbourne, professional membership bodies, migration agencies and Bill Pollock himself. At 91, Bill remains a strong advocate of international student employability. The meeting was spearheaded by Gareth Benson and Manorani Guy, who introduced the status quo and what should be done to correct it. They discussed 2 major points: the problem of a skills gap, and employer frustrations. A Q&A session followed, where Pollock was asked a number of questions regarding Drake International’s commitment to improving the international student experience.

Pollock had this to say: 

“Our mission at Drake is “One planet, one people, one purpose”. We want to do everything we can to make it easier for students who are coming out of a degree to live a better life.”

The meeting at Drake International concluded with the promise of an open conversation; a correspondence to help change the status quo and make strong positive strides towards the mission VicWISE strives to achieve. 

The VicWISE Networking Event

The meeting with Drake culminated in the promise of correspondence; a promise that was kept with the presence of Drake International’s CEO Bill Pollock at the Professional Networking Event held on the 21st of February. The event saw a host of industry leaders who would have likely never have met were it not for the reach of the Victorian Working Group. 

The event began with a heartfelt performance by international students part of the project ‘Be You- Be Scene’, recounting their stories of employment in Australia; or lack thereof. The performance left a lasting impact on those who attended the networking event as it fulfilled its goal of starting a conversation among industry leaders to take a more unbiased view on the employment of international students. 

“The Good, The Bad…”

“International students have always been the best candidates … They’re on time, well learned and have a hard work ethic,” says Paul Breen.

The event continued with an enlightening panel discussion headed by Shanton Chang,  a steering committee member of VicWISE, interviewing three powerhouses in international student employment; Paul Breen, Stuart Clark and Oskar Santos.

When asked about the challenges they face when hiring international students, Stuart Clark, the manager of Graduate Talent Acquisition at Deloitte, had this to say: “Some students lack the research and understanding for the role…” describing how students often apply for multiple jobs, and not just the ones they would be best suited to. He continued by saying “We want it to be targeted … Make it easy for us because it’s easy for us to move on to the next one.” 

Chang then asked, “Why do you hire international students?” Paul Breen, an entrepreneur of such organisations as Calendar Club, stepped up to say “International students have always been the best candidates … They’re on time, well learned and have a hard work ethic.”

The panellists were then asked a question most local employers often fret about: “Why are you not concerned about visa misconceptions?” Oskar Santos, head of industry engagement at Ducere Business School, replied promptly- “We need that talent because it’s hard to come by.” 

The panel was then open to questions from the audience. Chinmay Ananda, a financial adviser and a former international student asked: “How do students with experience in their home countries get their resumes across when so many employers desire localised experience?”

Clark stepped in to say “Make a network. Make connections. It goes beyond CVs.”

Breen added “For 800 roles, we get about 37,000 CVs. It’s not about the quality of your CV; it’s about how you get yourself out there … The easy thing to do it blame the application process. If there is an obstacle, go around it.” 

“… and The Misunderstood.”

“The best way to bring about change is to make connections”, says Astrid Hoffman, Co-Founder of Cultural Transition Consulting.”

Nicole Kirkwood of Acacia Immigration held the floor to demystify the visa process and shed light on some of the many misconceptions employers have. When it comes to employers hiring international students, some of the most common questions asked are: “Do you have permanent residency?” or “How long is your visa valid?”
These questions can be answered by a simple VEVO check. It takes less than 5 minutes and clears up any misunderstandings an employer may have. An international student does not need permanent residency to legally work in Australia, nor do they need a sponsorship letter. On a student visa, a student is legally allowed to work 20 hours a week, and full time during holidays. 

Bringing to light the truth behind the visa misconceptions is of paramount importance, as these misconceptions could be the deciding factor that effects the livelihood of thousands of international students. The networking phase of the event had industry leaders connecting and conversing about the status of international student employability, and what changes they could make to further accommodate these students. Change begins with a single step, and the VicWISE networking event was a giant leap towards the empowerment of international students and their employability.

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