STUDY ON THE RELEVANCE OF
INTERNATIONAL STUDENT MOBILITY TO
WORK AND EMPLOYMENT.
Finnish employers’ views on benefits of studying and work placements abroad
Irma Garam, Centre for International Mobility CIMO
This paper presents the English summary of a study project conducted by the Centre for Interntional Mobility CIMO. The study examined the relevance of international student mobility from the point of view of employers. The report was published in Finnish in November 2005 and it is available on CIMO’s website at www.cimo.fi Opiskelijoiden kansainvälinen liikkuvuus ja työelämä. Työnantajien näkemyksiä ulkomailla opiskelun ja harjoittelun merkityksestä Occasional Paper 1/2005.
Aim and background of the study
International study and work placement experiences have
usually been studied by surveying mobile students. Less attention has been paid to employers’ perspective. The main benefits of international mobility according to students relate to improved language skills, learning about new cultures and personal growth and development. The improved language
skills and general key skills, such as social skills, confidence and independence that develop abroad are also regarded as
useful with regard to future employment. According to European surveys, graduates believe that studying abroad has helped them secure their first job. Having international experience during studies often has an impact on the direction of the graduates’ career path, too: for many who have studied abroad, international dimension is one criterion for choosing a job, and they use their language skills and knowledge of different cultures in their jobs.
The subject of this study is the relevance of international
student mobility in relation to work and employment. The
aim is to look for answers to questions, such as whether international experience during studies is useful with regard to employment and whether it bears relevance with regard to
recruitment of new graduates. The survey looks at the issue
from the perspective of employers: How do Finnish employers view studies and work placements abroad? How does international experience rate when recruiting new graduates? Do employers feel that they can benefit from graduates’ international experience? By the concept of relevance we refer here to how useful international student mobility is and how well it serves a purpose. The concept of relevance can be looked at through needs
and expectations. Does the end result of mobility meet the
needs of different players? This survey is limited to the extent to which international student mobility meets the needs of employers. Employers’ perspective is justified since it is them who make micro-level decisions on what kind of knowhow, education and experience is considered valuable when recruiting new graduates.
By international student mobility in this context we mean
a study or work period abroad linked to students’ formal
education and degree: exchange studies, international work
placements or degree studies abroad. Common to all these
three options is that regardless of whether the period takes place in an educational institution or at work, it brings a new, international dimension to the learning process. The survey is limited to higher education.
International dimension has been one of the priorities of
Finnish higher education policy since the 1980s. There has
been a strong focus, in particular, on developing student mobility although internationalisation of higher education is a much wider concept. The current national development plan
for higher education sets out to increase the number of exchange students by about 70% compared to the present level. International student mobility is also one of the criteria used in allocating performance-based funding to higher education
The following industries were the most common among respondents: •
social and health care (19% of respondents);
retail, hotel and restaurant services (11%);
legal and security sectors (11%);
general public administration (national) (11%);
technology and construction (10%);
banking and finance (6%).
International cooperation and mobility in education has
been justified by, for example, economic competitiveness.
The belief that Finnish economy and business and industry
need highly educated employees with international skills is
common in public declarations. This study tackles the issue
whether Finnish employers share this view.
Employers with a high number of employees are slightly
overrepresented in the results. 16% of respondents employ
less than 10 people and just under a half (46%) less than 50 people. More than every tenth of respondents (12%) represent work places with more than 250 employees. Employees with a higher education degree account, on average, for 27%
of all staff.
Realisation of the study
According to responses received, more than a half of the
work places (57%) are involved in international activities and almost a half (49%) regularly use other working languages
than Finnish or Swedish, the official langua...