International Students Bring Good Vibes to Higher Education and Working Life

Teksti | Esa Hukkanen , Leena Kuosmanen , Olga Kymäläinen

There are ways and means to support students in their recruitment to find work corresponding to their education, finding a job in line with their qualifications. Laurea’s Career Services and Study Counsellor held a workshop for the International Week 2023 visitors in March.

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Photo by Keira Burton on Pexels

Students give a face to internationalization and immigration in higher education (HE). There is an increasing number of students speaking other languages than the national languages of the country. Their motivation and status vary. There are students who study for a degree, a tailormade education or in exchange, or in specialist work and combining a family. Immigrant students who live in the country permanently form a major part of students in HE. The starting point circumstances and competence level vary significantly between students. (EU Commission Immigration Portal.)

Adaptation to HE is a Process

There can be a wider range of underlaying factors influencing study success and motivation. To start with is understanding students in a new educational infrastructure when familiar education is unfamiliar, and their views about learning and working environments. A whole of life approach understanding students with emotions, family history and situation, promotes wellbeing. The point is recognizing and understanding an adult learner’s strengths and challenges and recognizing their prior competence, including language skills. The recommended aim is to support studies of marginalized groups and prevent them from dropping out. An inadequate language skill can be confused with the learning disability. There are adults who don’t know, they have an unidentified learning disability, until they start higher education. (EUROSTUDENT VII 2021, UDL.)

Dialogical skills help in understanding the new and changing the routines, help students lead to increased resilience, and that of the HE. Intercultural communication and knowledge about cultural differences are keys for building bridges and learning from one another. Engaging intentionally with the goal of increasing understanding regardless of different opinions and addressing problems neutrally create new thinking in a new light. Questioning thoughts and actions from the conventional way and listening to everybody’s opinions from different perspectives may increase ways to develop HE society and working life in general. (UDL; Sitra)

What Competences Could HE Learn from Students?

Students bring along working life and academic competence, cultural richness, and linguistic capital to a HE. Highly educated students have skills and learning that are insufficiently recognized. Accreditation of the competence shortens the study time and enhances employability. Unfortunately, recognition of prior learning is an unused resource in HE. It can be a question of inadequate knowledge identifying and assessing students’ gained competences due to different curricula and working life requirements. (Eurostudent VII, 2021. Flexible Pathways into and Within Higher Education. Thematic Review. Summary. 7-9; Intelligence Brief 1/2021, 33-39.)

Helping International Students to Find Employment

The goal of the Laurea Career Services is to help students find employment that is meaningful to them and according to their studies and career plans – be it trainee, intern, or other position. To do this we aim to have as much contact with students as possible and there are two main ways to do this: through personal counselling and coaching, and in webinars and workshops. Besides being in contact with students we provide a vast catalogue of employment information and job search tips for self-study, gathered from various sources, and updated frequently.

The students are met in their tutoring groups by their tutor teacher, who leads the mandatory 5 ECTS credit course on professional development. The career counselor visits the groups and discusses relevant topics according to each group. From how to plan your career to how to utilize the employment information, students can go through what is important in their situations. Two of the course’s credits come from voluntary sources. For that the career services provide courses in Finnish and English about career planning, skill recognition, and job search.

Additionally, the students are free to participate on webinars and workshops that concentrate on one specific topic at a time. Often the most popular webinars discuss how to stand out with your resume, or how to use LinkedIn for your benefit in job search and career. To make the online workshops more participatory we have started experimenting with the Miro App and so far, the results are excellent – if enough students attend. As a newcomer this spring we introduced a webinar on how to prepare to and succeed in a job interview. Alongside the webinar was held a live job interview workshop with industry professionals. We are bringing more key partners to student webinars still this spring. These are just a few examples on how Laurea brings the key partners and students closer to each other, which is further discussed in more detail below.

The personal counselling or coaching sessions with students are by far the most effective way to engage students and help them find employment or clear their career thoughts. It’s only so much you can do in a webinar setting and a lot depends on the students themselves. Of course, the action needs to be taken by the student whether met personally or in a group setting, but in counselling session the needs and wishes of a student can be dealt in much more detail and the correct actions planned together. Even though dozens of students have been met in a few months span, the problem lies in the reach: it is just not possible to encounter every student – not that everyone needs it. On the other hand, the students are not reached effectively enough through marketing efforts for them to utilize the service for their best benefit; much more capacity is still available.

The information we provide to students is vast and versatile. Coming from official data such as the national career surveys and nationwide employment data, and from other sources, the employment information offers the students resources for self-studying. Salary information for different industries and positions, skill and knowledge expectations provided by Laurea alumni, and general tips, hints, and discussions in the form of podcasts and articles, can all be found in the vast selection of employment information.

The Goal is to Find the Right Students for the Right Companies

At Laurea, we use the JobTeaser platform, through which companies can announce their open jobs and internships, as well as thesis topics. This is our one centralized channel, where our students and alumni can apply for positions according to their own needs. The exception to this is nursing and health care internships, which are reported through another system, Jobiili.

Companies can use JobTeaser in two ways according to their own needs: more broadly or more narrowly. If company wants to reach our students better, we recommend creating a company profile. The company profile is visible to our students, even if the company does not currently have an active job advertisement on the platform. This way, the student can directly contact the company. With a company profile, companies can also announce their own events: webinars, fairs, trainings or just coffee moments. Creating a company profile requires more time and effort, but it can be useful in several different ways. Another way is to create a simpler recruitment profile and announce a one-time vacancy. In this case, the students will only see the open announcements from the company at that moment and the company will not be able to announce its events. The choice is usually made according to one’s own needs and there is no right or wrong way.

Our key partners are in pole position in JobTeaser and are listed first in student searches. In addition, they have wider company profile visibility and access to the student talent bank, from which companies can headhunt talents directly for their own needs without announcing open positions at all. Talent bank displays students’ CVs and other reported background information, which companies can screen with the help of search functions.

At Laurea, we organize a recruitment event once a year, at the beginning of the year. Starting in 2023, the concept has been changed and we offer the four-day JobFest recruitment event, which is aimed at all our fields of study. The event is also open to all companies and is free for our key partners. The content of the days has been planned by listening to the wishes of the students and the goal is to offer the most comprehensive opportunities for networking and work life topics. In addition to the companies, the days include various speeches on the topics discussed, professional photography and advance workshops, e.g., regarding CV and self-performance.

The students’ reception of JobFest has been great and it was clear from the feedback that the reform was welcome and that the whole concept was functional. Each student is at a different stage in their studies and needs different things from the recruitment event. Where one is looking for a summer job and wants to network with companies, the other may need more information about communication or well-being in working life. For this reason, in the future we will strive to invest even more in the whole and consider all our students as well as possible.

Alongside JobFest, we are planning an InternFest event aimed at IT, security, business, and law students who are looking for an internship. InternFest will take place in the fall of 2023 for the first time and is an open event only for our key partner companies. The purpose is to bring together students and companies looking for an internship. Participating companies must have an internship to offer to our students within the next year. With this, we aim to make it easier to find internships, especially in difficult fields, and at the same time reduce prejudices.



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