International students

 in the workplace

As Australia’s fourth largest export, the international education sector is worth almost $35 billion to the economy each year and supports more than 240,000 jobs. That’s putting a whole lot of good back into business.


But the benefits of international education don’t stop there. More and more employers are realising the value of a diverse, globally minded workforce. Australian employers also need a diverse and sustainable talent pool to drive growth, and remain competitive in a global economy.

Here are our top five ways international students and graduates can broaden the horizons of your business or organisation.

1. Enhance cultural diversity

Embracing diversity and different perspectives benefits everyone in the workplace. Employees from different cultural backgrounds working together on common goals can improve business and team performance, through sharing ideas and fresh perspectives on problem solving.


For international students, gaining work experience in an Australian organisation is a valuable opportunity to put their learning into action. Hands-on, practical experience enhances their understanding of Australian business practice and helps them to develop strong networks and stay connected with Australia, long after they have returned home.


For Australian workers and employers, working with people from different nationalities, cultures and ethnicities provides valuable opportunities to understand cultural context, and prepares them to respond to opportunities in an increasingly global economy.

Benefits of hiring

international students

In 2016, QS Enrolment Solutions conducted a survey of Australian employers to get their perspectives on hiring international students. Here’s what they identified as the key benefits:


53%Global perspective/ network

41%Multilingual workplace

29%New skills

29%Stronger work ethic


“It is a great asset to have a diversity of people within our organisation who not only have a language capability, but the cultural understanding of who we’re dealing with in our business.”

“Business is global. We need to focus on those skills that everybody brings to an organisation.”

Nick Slingsby

General Counsel, ANL

2. Develop entrepreneurial and resilient teams

Soft skills like teamwork, lateral thinking, project management and communication capabilities are important in any workplace. The changing nature of work requires additional skills and competencies, including adaptability, innovation and entrepreneurial mindsets.


International students are highly mobile, motivated and resilient. Having made the journey to live and study in a new country, often with limited networks, they are able to adapt and often thrive outside of their comfort zone. They bring their knowledge of their home culture and languages, and are keen to share their expertise and expand their networks.
For international students and graduates, taking up a part-time job can provide a vital opportunity to become part of our broader community – not only can they improve their job-related skills, they can also sharpen their English proficiency and cultural awareness on their journey towards a global career.


Many international students hail from service-based cultures which emphasise respect, hard work and loyalty. This can manifest a strong work ethic when welcomed into Australian work- places, as well as a desire to give back to local communities.

Top 8 skills groups identified by companies

of perceived skills with growing demand by 2025


1. Critical thinking and analysis
2. Problem-solving
3. Self-management
4. Working with people
5. Management and communication of activities
6. Technology use and development
7. Core literacies
8. Physical abilities

Future of Jobs Report,
World Economic Forum, 2020

“International students have a really positive impact on Australia. They help create a more diverse community and they represent the wider consumer base, which is important for business across Australia but also on a global scale.”

Anthea Corridon

People and Culture Business Partner,

3. Connect with local customers

The world is truly a global village. The digital age, and increasingly diverse social networks, enable us to travel and communicate across borders faster than ever before. Local success rests on our capacity to respond to global market changes and challenges.


Multilingual, culturally aware employees are also better able to communicate directly with diverse customer bases and growing international tourism markets.


International students and graduates bring knowledge of their home cultures and can provide a vital link between local customers and global markets.


This knowledge can help to better target your products and services through increased understanding of business and social etiquette, cultural nuances, and language and communication styles. These skills are in increasingly high demand and can be applied across many sectors and roles – from customer service to business development and more.


Through engaging with international students and graduates, you can enhance how your business responds to your customers and international markets, leading to better business outcomes.
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Diverse workforces reflect
modern, multicultural Australia

Australians were born overseas

Australians speak a language other than English at home

Australian Bureau of Statistics

4. Respond to global opportunities

Australian employers need a diverse and sustainable talent pool to drive growth and remain competitive in a global economy.


Engaging with international students and graduates in your business can help you to develop new products, export markets and global connections. Businesses that boast multilingual, culturally aware employees can offer stronger service to a broad consumer market, and can connect with business partners from all over the world. These competencies present an advantage for business in terms of exploring trade and investment channels, products and services, which can lead to greater competitiveness in the global market.


Australia’s international alumni forge vital links across the globe. Whether graduates return to their home country or take up opportunities in another destination, they drive Australia’s connectedness with the Asian region and beyond. Some go on to become leaders and entrepreneurs in their chosen professions. Through these global alumni networks there is potential for fruitful research, trade and business relationships and a lifelong connection back to Australia.
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    Did you know?

By 2030, services could become Australia’s main export to Asia and support more than one million Australian jobs.


(Asialink Business, 2015)
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    Did you know?

Over 80 percent of international students between 2000–2014 returned to their home countries (or went to another destination), creating lifelong links between Australia and the rest of the world.


(Department of Home Affairs 2018)
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    Did you know?

Over the last 50 years, Australia has educated more than 2.5 million international students. These connections enhance business links and mutual understanding across the globe.


Australia Global Alumni Engagement Strategy (2016–2020)

“For any company that has a vision or a mission, especially beyond the boundary or territory of Australia, there’s a very unique value that international students can bring.”

Elva Zhang

Shipping & Maritime Lawyer, ANL

5. Attract (& retain) the best & brightest

Hiring exceptional talent is a challenge for every organisation – particularly in a world of increasing competition and rapidly changing business and consumer needs. That is why it’s important not to overlook international students and graduates. Being open to a wide pool of talent enables Australian businesses to attract the best candidate for a role, regardless of their cultural background or visa type. Broadening the talent pool can also help to fill gaps in local markets and address skills shortages in key sectors and regional areas.


A competitive graduate labour market, shifting visa legislation and ‘fear of the unknown’ can deter many employers from hiring or engaging international students. Some organisations also have restrictive policies that require permanent residence for ongoing roles.


But engaging with international students and graduates is easier than you think. There are many options to discover new talent and provide students with valuable workplace experience.

What opportunities can you provide?

Request a copy of this white paper

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The material contained on this website has been developed by the International Education Association of Australia (IEAA) with the support of Australian Government’s Enabling Growth and Innovation program. The views and opinions expressed in the materials do not necessarily reflect the views of or have the endorsement of the Australian Government or of any Minister, or indicate the Australian Government’s commitment to a particular course of action.