Recently I asked a group of employers in Australia what are they looking for in their new recruits. They answered that they wanted work ready graduates who had people skills and who could adapt to different circumstances.
I further asked if a graduate had studied part of their degree in Asia would that be beneficial. All said they would normally go to the top of a recruitment list as the time successfully studying and living in Asia would have developed unique individual qualities.
The benefits of international study are many, and go well beyond the experience which comes from travel during semester breaks. Becoming part of a diverse student community helps develop international professional networks, while graduates of programs from institutions with established international reputations earn respect from prospective employers who also value the intercultural skills and open-mindedness which are enhanced by living, and learning, outside a student’s comfort. Many foreign students get this experience in Australia but not enough Australians get a similar experience overseas.
In an increasingly borderless global marketplace, students are seeking genuine pathways to global careers in fields from education to public health, project management to business and beyond as they embrace the internationalisation of employment and the opportunities it presents for robust learning, personal and professional development.
Another consequence of the growing global market is intensifying competition for jobs, with employers able to source potential recruits from an expanding and increasingly mobile talent pool in which graduates with on-the-ground international experience to back up their theoretical studies are rising to the top.
Many of the skills developed by an overseas immersion experience will stand students in good stead in the global employment arena; with maturity, independence, tolerance and adaptability as attributes which are advantageous when working in fields from global public health to foreign construction or business ventures with multinational stakeholders.
Policymakers have also recognised the benefits of international education, evidenced by initiatives such as the Australian Government’s $100 million New Colombo Plan to support overseas study and internships in Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia and Japan for hundreds of undergraduate students. This is a great initiative.
In order to seize the opportunities presented the tremendous growth in Asia, we can expect to see more and more students actively looking to universities to provide pathways to take advantage of our proximity to, and growing role within, the Asian economies.
Whether it is studying a semester at a sister institution, working with a foreign mentor, collaborating with students and academic leaders on international projects, networking with industry leaders and peers from extended overseas networks or delving into case studies with an international context – higher education institutions are employing a range of strategies to maximise students’ exposure to, and deeper understanding of, business without boundaries.
Michael most recently served as founding president of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology’s (RMIT) university in Vietnam, where he established two campuses (Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City). He previously was the Australian Ambassador to Vietnam and Laos. Michael also has served as a member of the Australian diplomatic corps in China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, France and Italy and was the Founding CEO of Australia’s international television service, AUSTV, at the ABC.