Your Situation In Australia And How You Can Win


Australia is home to more than half a million international students and offers several options to students pursuing an education. We are going to focus on the three main channels: English Language Course, Vocational Education and Training, and Higher Education.

Unlike many countries, Australia allows international students to work while studying. The official Australian Government website for international students spells out how much paid work students can undertake: Most student visas allow you to work for up to 40 hours every two weeks while your course is in session, and unrestricted hours during any scheduled course break, but before you undertake any paid work you need to make sure your visa allows you to work.

Please note that through this book I use the expression ‘part-time jobs’ often and it only refers to jobs that require the employee to work less than 20 hours per week, or up to 40 hours per fortnight, as per the law.

Before we go any further, I’ll assume that as an international student you have two main goals. The first is to learn new skills from your current coursework. The second likely includes working and having experience in the local employment market. The combination of your two goals has the potential to make you a distinct and highly skilled professional both in Australia and overseas.

Let’s look into the ways you can reach them.

English Language Courses

International Students come from all over the world to study English in Australia. Chances are you don’t want to be just another English student — you want more. Perhaps you want to pursue a degree and ultimately find a job or start your own business. What makes you different is that you already decided an English course is just the beginning of your journey in Australia. Where do you go from there?

The answer will depend on many factors, but especially on your English skills. If you are in the early stages of your coursework, you have the greatest advantage of all: time, both a good amount to study and to start building a strategy for your future. You have to commit 100% to your English course, study hard, and do your absolute best. The English skills you'll acquire during this time of your life will play a major role in your later success. After all, you won’t have many chances in Australia if you can’t communicate in English.

Getting a job in the early stages of your English course can be a challenge, but by crafting a strategy early as you begin the journey, you will keep your focus on the big picture.

At some stage it is a good idea to assess your skills, either by doing a free online test or discussing your progress with your teachers to make sure you are always moving forward. Once you realise your English skills are improving quickly, you need to decide what to do next. Is it time for a new challenge? Do you want to enrol in a vocational course or in a bachelor’s degree? Analyse them both before you make a decision.

Vocational Education and Training

‘Vocational Education and Training’ (or ‘VET’) was designed to deliver workplace-specific skills and knowledge covering a wide range of careers and industries (including trade and office work, retail, hospitality and technology). These types of courses result in achievements such as Certificate IV in Business, Diploma of Marketing, Advanced Diploma in IT, and many others.

In order to get better insights into the Vocational Education and Training courses, we first need to fast forward to your prospects after graduation as an international student. Meaning, once you finish your VET course, how will you use the knowledge you acquired throughout the course to secure a job in your field of education?

During my years in Australia, I’ve noticed that international students previously enrolled in VET courses encounter difficulties securing a full-time job in their field of education because most of the Vocational Education and Training courses don't meet the necessary criteria for a provisional working visa. This makes it difficult for students to find a job after graduation. For example, I’ve seen hundreds of people in this situation: an international student enrolled in a Diploma of Business studies hard, and graduates with high distinction. But once he hangs that beautiful diploma on the wall, he is kind of stuck at a fork in the road.

This student cannot work legally in Australia after finishing his diploma, and without a strategy he has limited options. In this case, he usually thinks of two solutions: first, he either continues to be a student so he can renew his student visa for another year (I’ve seen seven years), or he often goes back to his home country.

The reality is harsh, but I've got good news for you. Just a chapter ahead, we’ll explore new ways to make your dreams come true (including strategies such as finding a part-time job) that can make a huge difference in your career.

The truth is that although international students acquire useful skills from Vocational Education and Training courses, companies want much more than that. They want solid expertise in the field in which they’re recruiting, and real experience in the Australian market. In addition to that, they will always give preference to a citizen of their country. The only way they will give you an opportunity is if you have unique skills and experience.

Don’t be disappointed by what I’m saying; this happens everywhere in the world. Think about your home country. It’s likely that a company in your hometown wouldn’t employ an overseas applicant unless this person had qualifications and skills they couldn’t find among your fellow country mates.

The point I’m stressing here is not about the quality of Vocational Education and Training courses, but is about the question you need to ask right now: what are you going to do once you graduate?

If you are not quite sure how to answer it, the solution is to take action now. So I’ll give you two options. I call them:

Work Now

International students are allowed to work part-time, though may never exceed forty hours per fortnight. More probably than not, if you are already studying in Australia you are also employed, and your current job is not related to your studies. Am I right?

If I’m close to the truth, we must change and upgrade your situation for the better. The first step is to search for jobs (including internships) that are related to your studies, because experience in the Australian market is the key to maximise your chances for the future. Entry level positions are a great way to start your search. You might need to have some previous experience; however, in these types of jobs, you can also show your skills by highlighting your academic projects and achievements. Look at a few examples below:

The construction industry is currently looking for junior strata assistants and junior estimators, among many other positions. Let’s say you are working in the construction industry as a labourer. You could use your experience in a construction site to become a junior estimator. Your job would be to support the production estimator as you train on how to produce accurate estimates as well as review and analyse them.

Another example comes from the engineering field, which could be looking for junior structural drafters. Perhaps you have studied engineering in your home country for a few years until you decided to move to Australia. It helps if you could work part-time as a junior structural drafter. You would need AutoCAD drafting experience and your duties would include drafting documentation, work planning, and site visits.

Major industries (such as technology, finance, education, tourism, and manufacturing) have great opportunities as well. It doesn’t matter if you are enrolled in a certificate IV, diploma, or advanced diploma programme. You can always find an entry level position in your field. For example, if you are studying a Diploma of Marketing, you can find an entry level position as a marketing assistant junior in a marketing agency. The same thinking can be applied for students enrolled in a Diploma of Design. They can apply for a junior designer position, or they can apply for receptionist jobs in a design agency to start gaining experience about how an agency works.

The possibilities are limitless. You need to expand your mind as well as your thinking in order to challenge the odds, leading to you find new solutions. I’m not saying it will be easy, actually far from it; it will be possible if you are willing to try. (In the next chapter we are going to discuss your résumé and dive into a search to find part-time jobs. For now, let’s look at your second option.)

Uni Pathway

Uni Pathway means that your years of study in Australia can be used towards a bachelor's degree. It’s called a pathway into the high education sector, and you can gain entry to Australian universities if you’ve completed a VET qualification, such as a diploma or advanced diploma. This means you can use your current studies to save time in addition to money to get into university. Visit universities’ websites and search for 'Entry Pathways' or 'Pathway Programs’ for more information. In addition, many VET institutions are starting to provide higher education courses, which makes the transition even smoother. Speak to your teacher to check if your current institution offers bachelor's degree options.

Here's another example. If you have been enrolled in a Diploma of Business, and after a period of time you realise that Australia is where you want to stay for good, it’s worth investing further in your education. A bachelor's degree will bring you many advantages. If you need more incentive, read the next topic.

Higher Education

A bachelor’s degree or a master's degree are great ways to go. You start fresh, learn new skills from some of the best universities in the world, get to know new people, and have access to professors as well as networking groups. Additionally, you are required in most cases to complete an internship, which will give you valuable experience in the Australian market. By the end of your degree (considering your course meet the pre requisites) you’ll be eligible to apply for a post-study work visa.

We are going to talk in detail about this visa in chapter two, but as a preview, the Temporary Graduate visa is available for international students who have recently graduated from an Australian educational institution. It lets you work in Australia temporarily after you’ve finished your studies. The advantages of this visa are substantial because you will hold a degree from an Australian university compounded with experience in the local market acquired through your internship, and at the end you’re allowed to work full-time for up to four years. I mean, it doesn’t get any better than this.

For the people already enrolled in a higher education programme, you’re all set to start building your career. The time is now.

So far, we have analysed the different paths an international student can pursue in Australia, and I’ve shown you where each road leads you while highlighting some of the challenges in each choice. In chapter two, you will learn how to maximise your chances of finding a job.

Excerpt from 'The International Student's Blueprint: Your Strategy for Success in Australia' by Vanessa Sebben. Get your copy below.