Preparing International Students for a Competitive Job Market: Challenges and Opportunities

Preparing International Students for a Competitive Job Market: Challenges and Opportunities

Julie Miller (Northeastern University, USA), Becca Berkey (Northeastern University, USA), and Francis Griffin (Northeastern University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9752-2.ch007
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Given the current climate of fierce competition for work, universities are working tirelessly to prepare students for their future professional endeavors. Forms of experiential education, including service-learning and cooperative education, are increasingly used to augment traditional teaching tools and on-campus career services, particularly for domestic students. This chapter describes a mixed methods study that explored professional and vocational challenges faced by international students at Northeastern University. The authors examined experiences of students who have engaged in one of two pathway programs at the university. One pathway program includes service-learning and the other pathway program does not. Data from students and staff illuminate the challenges international students face in obtaining and maintaining paid positions. Study findings are used to offer best practices for professional development staff in preparing international students for future career success.
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International Students in the U.S.

According to Davis (1996), international students are students who are enrolled in colleges or universities in a foreign country where they are neither citizens nor immigrants. As of the 2013-2014 academic year, approximately 900,000 international students were enrolled in U.S. universities, which increased 8% from the previous year and nearly three times the number from 10 years prior. The continuing trend of international education is rooted in multiple factors, including globalization, increased university recruitment efforts, country-specific politics and agendas, and an increased issuance rate of student visas after 2008 (Institute of International Education, 2014).

While international student enrollment is beneficial to institutions, host universities also recognize the challenges associated with matriculating large numbers of international students in often short periods of time. Kreber (2009) argued that colleges and universities are struggling to support students who lack the cultural capital (Bourdieu, 2011) required to succeed without language instruction, cultural awareness, and academic skills support. This shift ultimately manifests in multiple ways including intercultural tensions on campus and increased demand and strain on academic programming and student services, including residential life, spiritual life, dining services, and other related services (Andrade, 2006; Leong & Sedlacek, 1989; Schmidt, 2010). In addition, linguistic and cultural barriers have been shown to negatively affect international students’ abilities to participate and fully integrate into curricular and extracurricular activities with their peers (Campbell, Macpherson, & Sawkins, 2014).

Despite these hurdles, several institutions continue to actively recruit and enroll international students, and with good reason. In the spirit of cross-cultural exchange, universities who host international students invite global perspectives and experiences into their classrooms, support U.S. innovation particularly through Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and business programs, and sustain innovation in campus-based programming, services, and marketable products through out-of-state tuition costs, many of which are subsidized by international student tuition (Citizenship and Immigration Canada, 2008, NAFSA, 2014; Nunn, 2005). In this regard, the U.S. is able to benefit from the “brain drain” many other countries lament (Gribble, 2008).

From an economic perspective, it is evident that the overall system of higher education in the U.S. benefits directly and indirectly from international students studying there; direct benefits include revenue gained through tuition, and indirect benefits may include jobs created and sustained for U.S. workers (NAFSA, 2014). For instance, in the 2013-2014 school year, international students and their families created or supported 340,000 jobs and contributed $26.8 billion to the U.S. economy (NAFSA, 2014). For every seven international students enrolled in a U.S. university, three jobs are created or supported, particularly in higher education, accommodation, dining, retail, transportation, telecommunications, and health insurance (NAFSA, 2014).

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