International Students

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:28): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills a question about international student graduate employment.

Leave granted.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: The minister would no doubt be aware of the Deakin University report conducted over the past three years on Australian international graduates and the transition to employment which has concluded that international students without permanent visas are unlikely to find work in their discipline area in Australia and that this particularly impacts those where we have identified skill shortages and, despite being promised that they will be able to find employment, they are finding that that is much more difficult than has been assumed.

As the minister would no doubt be aware, this is a $15 billion annual revenue industry. International education is a hallmark of the Weatherill Labor government’s direction, and I am now asking the minister:

1. Is the minister concerned that this report has found that most of those international student graduates in our identified skill shortage areas are unable to get work?

2.Is the minister working with the business community and Universities Australia to ensure, for example, permanent residency status is not a barrier to employment?

3.What is the government planning to do in response to this report?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills, Minister for Science and Information Economy, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Business Services and Consumers) ( 15:30 ): I thank the honourable member for her most important questions. Indeed, international students are a very important part of South Australia’s economy, and we have plans to continue to grow that sector as well.

The benefits of international students are vast. Not only do students coming to study and live here provide strong economic stimulus through those areas, but many members of their family and friends from overseas also come to visit while they are studying here, so it has a significant tourism benefit as well. Of course, thirdly, having international students here, not just in the CBD, certainly has transformed the culture of Adelaide, helping to bring a very vibrant and dynamic aspect to our CBD, which generates a lot of activity, energy and excitement. Also, in terms of our multicultural policy, it helps build better understanding and tolerance and helps build relationships that are in everyone’s interests.

In relation to a number of the issues that the Hon. Tammy Franks has raised in relation to permanent visas and residency status, these are important issues to us. They are mainly driven by the federal government and we are in discussions with the federal government around that, so there are issues around visas and access to permanent residency that we take on board. In relation to industry, that is also an area that we work very hard on.

I have just returned from China, and the visit reinforced even further that students, and particularly students’ parents, are looking for business relationships. They are looking to have their children experience firsthand industry employment and they are looking for those relationships and business networks when those students return. That is very good for our business as well.

We know that here in South Australia we probably do it better than most other jurisdictions in terms of offering student placements and internships, and we also have provisions for postgraduates to work here for a certain period of time. We work very hard, particularly through Education Adelaide, but also through the student associations, to work with industry and employers and encourage them to form relationships with the universities so that we can provide even more access to work placements and work experience.

It is an area that we see has great potential here in South Australia as a competitive advantage of this state. We are already fairly well developed and I guess, because we tend to be a smaller capital city, it is easier for us to have relationships with industry and employment associations to be able to forge those important relationships. So it is an area that I am particularly mindful of, and I know that Education Adelaide is as well. I know that universities are also focusing attention on that space, and it is an area that we will continue to work on and develop.

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