Navigating the labour markets: International graduates need more than credentials

Both traditional and non-traditional migration countries have become much interested in enhancing employability of international graduates and use this as a strategy to attract international students. Host countries are also paying more attention to post-study career prospects of returnees due to an increase in the number of returnees. However, there is currently a dearth of knowledge about the employability experiences of international graduates in both host and home countries. It is clear that their employment outcomes are unsatisfactory but what continues to be under-researched is the determinants of these unsatisfactory outcomes and how to improve them. Consequently, despite criticism, governments and institutions prioritise the development of human capital as a solution to graduate employability.

This presentation departs from the traditional human capital approach in emphasising that employability is increasingly about the deployment of key resources like social capital (e.g. significant connections), cultural capital (e.g. understanding of cultural norms) and agentic capital (e.g. strategies to use resources strategically). The presentation draws upon extensive research with graduates in both host and home countries to evidence the importance of these beyond-credentials resources. The findings show although qualifications were an important element enhancing the graduates’ workforce entrance, many had to use social capital to mobilise educational outcomes. Limited cultural understanding negatively influenced career progress of the graduates in both contexts. Finally, agentic capital enabled the graduates to overcome a range of limitations. The presentation concludes with implications about the role of higher education and relevant stakeholders in supporting international students to develop essential resources for their post-study career trajectories during and after their study programs.