OVERSEAS students struggle to find full-time employment, even though many are bound to courses to fill vital skills shortages in Australia, a study commissioned by the Federal Government says.

A large number of students fail on numerous occasions to be short-listed for an interview. Some graduates found only part-time work in their chosen field and supplemented their income by working in restaurants or shops.

Migrants qualified in hairdressing were very likely to find work, but participation rates were low in the food and hospitality industries. Few recent migrants who qualified in building had found work in their trade, particularly those from non-English speaking backgrounds.

The study’s project director, Sophie Arkoudis, of the Centre for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Melbourne, said students’ inability to assimilate culturally was a problem. She said overseas students often treated the importance of being able to communicate in a social setting as irrelevant.

The study, The Impact of English Language Proficiency and Workplace Readiness on the Employment Outcomes of Tertiary International Students, was conducted last year just before the emergence of the global financial crisis and changes to the skilled migration program.

Ms Arkoudis said skilled migrants were still required in Australia for critical shortages in the health and medical sectors, engineering and IT professions. ”The students are very fixed on completing their course,” she said. ”However, many students may not see learning social language skills as relevant.

”The Australian employers interviewed sought ‘well-rounded employees who not only have sufficient English language skills but also have the cross-cultural ability and the potential to adapt to the Australian workplace’.”

A spokesman for the Education Minister, Julia Gillard, said key employer groups were being contacted to seek their response to the findings. He said that talks would also be held with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship on the subject of preparing migrants for the workplace.

The spokesman said the report contained good news because it showed that 85 per cent of independent migrants who had studied in Australia found employment within six months of graduating.