Supporting international students in the school-to-work transition

Canada’s higher ed community has been celebrating record-setting international enrolments for years now, but it has not been as quick to talk about how these students fare after graduation. Research shows that a majority of the international students currently studying in Canada wish to stay and build a life in the country after graduation. But there is often inconsistency in what, if any, targeted supports schools are offering to help these students succeed in the job market after they graduate. 

For their part, international students perform well academically in Canada’s postsecondary system. However, they may not experience the same success in the job market as domestic students. A recent report from Statistics Canada found that, while international students are more likely to graduate from postsecondary and to possess more of the characteristics associated with higher earnings than other students, they earn less than their domestic peers in the years following graduation (Note 1).

Combine this with the fact that international students need to fulfill strict employment requirements to qualify for permanent residency after graduation, and it becomes clear that these students face a very different challenge than the one they faced when first trying to gain admission into a Canadian school. 

“Universities have a duty to care for international students both during their studies and once they have graduated.”
— Dr. Lorraine Carter, Director of McMaster University Continuing Education

Fortunately, some Canadian institutions are adopting a more holistic end-to-end approach to help their international students succeed in Canada, both during and after their studies. McMaster University is one such example. 

Next month, McMaster Continuing Education will offer “Employability Skills and Cultural Fluency for the Canadian Workplace,” a 12-hour course in which students will learn where to find the right jobs in their region and how to analyze job postings to understand the skills employers are looking for. More importantly, the course will help them assess their own soft skills, build cultural fluency, and develop their personal brand. Topics pertaining to cultural fluency include the hidden job market, employability skills, and networking to gain a competitive edge when seeking employment.

“Universities have a duty to care for international students both during their studies and once they have graduated,” says Dr. Lorraine Carter, Director of McMaster University Continuing Education. “International students include not only undergraduates but also adult learners with complex life and family needs. Being able to support both groups of international students in ways that will enhance their experience of Canada and increase their employability is important work.” 

The course involves a partnership between McMaster Continuing Education and the course’s co-developer and co-deliverer, Devant, a Toronto-based coaching and consulting agency whose mission is to help international students stay, work, and succeed in Canada. Students who successfully complete the course will receive a course certificate and a Devant digital badge, which they can use to demonstrate their commitment to (and success in) transitioning into the Canadian workforce.

“We’ve seen firsthand the impact that can be had when international students receive the tailored support and guidance they need to build a great life in Canada after graduation.”
— Zohra Lakhani, MEd, Devant Facilitator

“In our work with top Canadian postsecondary institutions and government agencies, we’ve seen firsthand the impact that can be had when international students receive the tailored support and guidance they need to build a great life in Canada after graduation,” says Zohra Lakhani, MEd, an educator and international development practitioner who will co-design and co-facilitate the course with Devant colleague Syeda Kabir, MA, a recruitment and talent management specialist. Lakhani and Kabir will draw on their extensive knowledge of talent management and career development to work with McMaster to impact the lives of international students for the better.  

“We look forward to working closely with Devant and international students in the Hamilton, ON region so that they are better advantaged when they seek work and a meaningful life in Canada,” adds Dr. Carter. “This way, McMaster University has taken steps in meeting its duty to care for international students and the region as a whole.” 

 

Notes:

1. The StatsCan study found that international students generally possessed “more characteristics associated with higher earnings than Canadian students,” but earned less than domestic students six years after graduation after controlling for demographics and qualifications. The study compared three groups of students – Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and international students – and examined enrolment, graduation, and postgraduate earnings related to five postsecondary programs. More information can be found here.

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