La Trobe getting employability right

A researcher from La Trobe University’s Business School has examined the experience of Chinese Australian graduates who have returned to China to seek employment after completing tertiary education at La Trobe University.

Dr Jasvir Nachatar Singh said the majority of Chinese Australian students interviewed for the project felt that studying at La Trobe had made them more employable in China.

“Chinese graduates I interviewed were impressed with the level of investment Australian universities like La Trobe are making into developing international students’ employability skills through part-time work experiences at La Trobe or outside the campus, volunteering opportunities and internships” Dr Singh said.

The first study of its kind, Dr Singh conducted in-depth interviews with 19 Chinese Australian alumni from La Trobe University who had returned to China to work.

“Recent trends show that nearly 70 to 80 per cent of Chinese international students studying in Australia are returning to their home country to seek employment opportunities*,” Dr Singh said.

“While other research has suggested that Chinese employers prefer local graduates, my study has found that when it comes to having necessary ‘work-ready’ skills such as leadership, communications and influencing skills, those who have spent some time studying in Australia have the upper hand.

“Programs such as La Trobe’s Career Ready Advantage – designed with Australia’s leading employers to help develop more employable graduates – are clearly working.”

Graduates interviewed also said that having an overseas Masters’ degree was particularly beneficial when it came to getting jobs in China, and some had studied further to obtain chartered certification such as Chartered Professional Accounting.

Experience of international students in China

A second study by Dr Singh looked at the experience of international students studying in China – with a focus on development of employability skills.

“In contrast to Australian universities, this second study found that Chinese universities – including those ranked highly for academic attainment – do not place much emphasis on developing employability skills of international students,” Dr Singh said.

For the second stage of the research, Dr Singh interviewed 30 international students – largely from Africa and Malaysia – who had studied at the highly-ranked Wuhan and Tsinghua universities in China.

“While these two prestigious Chinese universities score high in terms of academic results, the students I interviewed recognised that content knowledge is not enough,” Dr Singh said.

“The students were expected to find their own work placements and were given very little support by the university support services – which proved particularly challenging when studying at an overseas university.

“Both of my studies have shown that Chinese universities need to increase their focus on helping domestic and international students develop the necessary skills required for entering the competitive and rapidly changing world of work.

“And the good news is that Australian universities such as La Trobe are getting it right when it comes to producing employable graduates.”

* International Consultants for Education and Fairs (ICEF). (2018). A record number of Chinese students abroad in 2015 but growth is slowing. Retrieved from viewed on 5th April 2018.

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