Bridging the Gap

An online employability skills platform

Bridging the Gap offers international students an online, bespoke and scalable employability training program.

Project dates

October 2018 - June 2019

Project overview

Bridging the Gap was a project designed by Successful Graduate to assist up to 500 currently enrolled international students across NSW institutions. The project supported the delivery of employability skills attainment across the state, comprising both metropolitan and regional institutions. In total, seven institutions across NSW participated in the project. The Bridging the Gap project started with a comprehensive survey by Student Edge of current international students to identify critical skills gaps. Insights were gained by engaging with industry about the skills they required of new recruits. The project delivered a bespoke and scalable employability training program through Successful Graduate by providing international students with identified and critical soft skills training content to help them successfully enter the job market, including the ability to write successful job applications. This project embraced the use of technology-enabled models to deliver employability support across a large geographic area to maximise NSW strengths in providing flexible delivery of training to international students.

Project highlights

By adapting existing content from the Successful Graduate course and layering it with additional content to suit the demands of industry and employers, international students from the seven participating institutions are now better prepared for the workforce. Partner institutions invited their international students to participate in the free employability skills training, provided on the purpose-built website Participating students were provided with two courses: the Study NSW Employability Skills Training Course and a micro course about critical thinking and problem solving skills.

Participating students were surveyed. Survey highlights include 83.4% of students felt that the training provided through this project has significantly helped them to improve their employability skills. Since commencing the course, over one third of students have secured part time or casual work. This is an amazing result, as the training was initially designed to support graduate employment. Therefore, (because most participants were first year students), the Successful Graduate course supports multiple forms of employment, regardless of the stage of the student lifecycle. Of those students who have secured part time or casual work while studying, 100% felt the course helped them to find employment. Over two thirds of student participants now have a much better understanding of the skills that Australian employers seek, demonstrating that the project has been a success.

Project background

International students view their overseas study period as an integral building block of their career journey and are demanding a variety of options and opportunities such as internships, professional certificates and relevant real-life cases integrated into their education. Increasingly however, employers are seeing a skills deficit amongst recent graduates. International student graduates have the hard skills and technical skills, but there is a soft skills and employability skills deficit. The International Student Barometer (ISB), produced by i-graduate, has previously indicated there is a disconnect between skills taught in the classroom and skills that are applicable to employment. In a competitive global graduate job market, many international students consider their overseas education to be an investment. A lack of work experience and employability skills adversely impacts the way they view their return on investment. Employablity skills training invests back into our international students' future.

Project outcomes

This project improved the employability of international students in metropolitan and regional NSW (22.5% of international students were located in regional NSW). Participating institutions can now add to their own value proposition to students. By involving so many partner institutions, the project was designed to support the competitiveness of international education in NSW. The project provided scalability and support to existing careers-oriented initiatives at institutions across NSW to encourage earlier engagement and more effective interaction between international students and their careers offices.

Project deliverables

Employability skills training was delivered online to students in NSW. Most of the international students surveyed for this project had not yet accessed careers support on campus. This lack of awareness is likely influenced by the volume of newly arrived students that completed this course. Just over 60% of participating students indicated they have been in Australia for less than one year. This shows that there is a strong opportunity for education institutions in NSW to increase their outreach to international students. Furthermore, there are opportunities to partner with external providers of employability and job-readiness / skills training in order to meet international student demand for these skills earlier in their academic journey.

The Employability Training Course prepared for this project by Successful Graduate, including the micro-course about problem solving and critical thinking skills are available for students and education institutions to use. These online training courses have been designed as a scalable solution to meet the demand identified in our project survey. The training can reach all students at a low cost per user. The training website has been designed to remain as an ongoing resource for institutions across NSW. As the only state in Australia to provide this type of employability skills service to international students, Study NSW can reset the narrative and provide a positive news story for NSW as a destination of choice for students, agents, parents and employers. The inclusion of regional NSW universities in this project helped address the perception that attention on employability is a metropolitan issue only.

Challenges and recommendations

Employablity skills training helps the Australian international education industry to be more competitive internationally. Whilst many institutions offer careers services, there remains a limited scalability factor and increasingly, international students are seeking employability skills training earlier in their academic career. Early intervention and communication appear to be critical. This will require both government and institutions to work together with specialist external providers to meet the employablity needs of our international student cohorts.

Further information

Gordon Scott

Managing Director, Successful Graduate