Employers embrace influence of international students
There are employers in New Zealand who have long been savvy to the benefits of having international student graduates in their workplaces.
These employers know that, along with their skills, the international graduates bring rich cultural context, a fresh perspective, an innovative mindset, and a solid work ethic to the office each day.
Assurity Consulting, a New Zealand-owned digital delivery services consultancy, has been hiring international students for their graduate programme almost since the company’s inception 17 years ago. Last year it won the International Student Workplace category at the Wellington International Student Excellence Awards.
“From very early on we took an approach of inclusive selection,” says Aron Chantelau, General Manager, People and Capability. “We wanted to find people whose values aligned with ours instead of simply trying to select based on people’s background and whether or not they went to Uni.”
Assurity has also partnered with Wellington NZ’s Employer Connect programme, established to provide insights into the business environment and networking opportunities for graduating international students; and the Work Ready programme, offering support on CV writing, cover letters, and what to expect from the hiring process.
“For the students, it is an opportunity to build their own network in a place where that might not otherwise be easy. For our staff, they get to connect with new people outside the industry and learn about the challenges the international students face, which gives them greater perspective.”
Aron says the students who attend both programmes are engaged, good at taking feedback, and highly motivated to start their careers.
Learning from each other
For Assurity, employing international graduates is about much more than filling jobs in the tech sector. “Our international graduates bring diversity of thought to our teams, which benefits our clients,” Aron says. “They also bring innovation, introducing new ideas and fresh perspectives which has led us over the years to try new things. And, culturally, it makes for an enjoyable workplace because there’s lots to learn from each other.”
He acknowledges there can be challenges, especially for students with English as a second or third language but says it’s all about providing the right structure and level of support. “We have a People Lead in all our teams. That role can be about supporting career progression, but it can also involve pastoral care - understanding what challenges that person is facing and helping to mitigate them.”
In Southland, Blue River Dairy is another company which recognises the value which international student graduates bring to their business. Since 2018, Blue River has hired more than 30 international students from the Southland Institute of Technology (SIT) and other institutions.
“The culture within an organisation is so important. Hiring only for skills is short-sighted,” says People and Capability Manager Abbigail Surridge. “With many of the international students that we have hired, we’ve been able to harness their life experience, dynamic exposure, and untapped potential as they have grown in their roles.”
“Diversity adds value to our organisation, by introducing different ways of thinking and problem-solving. When we collaborate, those differences help to create success.”
Jacky Shen arrived at SIT from Beijing in 2017 to study for his graduate diploma in Information Technology (IT). He already had a Master’s degree in Communication and Information Systems but wanted to better understand the New Zealand tech environment. He is now a software engineer at Blue River, leading a team of three.
Not only does the company benefit from Jacky’s technical skills, but also his language skills. “We have a number of Chinese suppliers, so I can speak to them easily and provide quick solutions for them,” he says. “Many companies want applicants to have local experience, but Blue Dairy allowed me to gain that experience on the job. It’s been a great opportunity.”
Economic and cultural influence
He believes that international students bring real value to the workplace. “We come with good technical skills, but we also contribute to the economy and to the cultural diversity of the country. It’s a win-win.”
Aron Chantelau says the international students who work in New Zealand have a bright future, whether here or overseas.
“They make a huge difference to our economy, both in terms of digital outcomes for New Zealand but also improving the quality of life here through the work they do,” he says. “Some of them will move overseas but if they’ve had a good experience here, they will become ambassadors for New Zealand.
“It’s great to be part of their journeys.”