Limited job opportunities for international students

NATIONAL EDGE?: A recruiter explains to Witsies their available options for their career applications. Photo: Lameez Omarjee

NATIONAL EDGE?: A recruiter explains to Witsies their available options for their career applications. Photo: Lameez Omarjee

International students can forget about applying for jobs, unless they have a South African identity Document (ID) or work permit, this is what they discovered at the general careers fair, held today at Old Mutual Sports Hall.

The Counselling and Careers Developmental Unit’s (CCDU) graduate recruitment Programme organised a careers fair for students from all faculties and degrees. It was an opportunity for students to engage with recruiters and to get a sense of what organisations were looking for.

Limited choices

International student, Tinashe Chuchu, a Masters student in Marketing attended the fair to look for graduate recruitment and employment opportunities. He said the fair was a good initiative by Wits, however his choices were limited given his degree and nationality.

“There were a wide variety of opportunities for engineering students, social sciences students and commerce students,” he said. However he got turned down by companies who weren’t looking for marketing students.

“I thought I could fit into a consultancy agency, but they wanted finance students”. Further, companies wanted students with South African IDs, “I left out all the banks, for obvious reasons. They do not take anyone who is not South African,” he said.

“I think the labour department puts regulations for companies to fulfill quotas”.  In his job searching experience, Chuchu found that there were positions advertised for international students, but only for specific and scarce skills sets.

Laws and regulations

Kwame Owusu-Ansah, Masters in Chemical Engineering shared Chuchu’s views. Although there were many opportunities, Owusu-Ansah said some of them were very “shaky”. You can apply for some positions, but then you have to make sure you can get a work permit. “I have a wide variety of choices because I’m an engineer. But until they find out I’m an international student, it slashes by three quarters.”

Initially if you got an offer there would be an opportunity for you to get a permit. But now you may get an offer, and not a get permit.

He explained that labour regulations are more stringent than in previous years. “They often refuse permits for international students, even if they give you an offer,” he said. “Initially if you got an offer there would be an opportunity for you to get a permit. But now you may get an offer, and not a get permit,” he added.

“It makes sense in that they are trying to protect South African people and South African graduates, which is okay in every country. But in my opinion it should be a bit more competitive,’ said Owusu-Ansah.

Lloyd Uta, also an international student completing his Masters in Marketing, found companies that were looking for applicants from South Africa and abroad. Those were big multi-national companies and a few smaller companies looking to increase their human capital, he said.

However, Uta admits, “Choices are limited. I have to keep switching between what I want to do (marketing) and what I can do (IT),” to find job openings.

Employers voice

Amos Kova, a graduate recruitment manager from a bank explained why applicants had to be South African citizens, “We believe that we have an obligation to South Africa”. the bank provides work experience for South African graduates because the programme is, “currently only structured for roles in South Africa”. There are hopes to extend the programme in the future to recruit graduates from the rest of Africa. “We don’t necessarily discriminate,” he said.

Bohlale Paile, a graduate manager from another bank, said there were restrictions for international students. “We don’t take international students at this point. We did before, but we ran into problems when it came to getting work permits”. She explained that the Department of Labour required recruiters to motivate, “why we took a student that is not a South African citizen over other citizens that are studying the same thing”.

Students should earn their jobs, develop themselves and prepare well, “and certainly, academic records play a role”.

The motivation process and applications for work permits take time, which holds international graduates back from starting the programme timeously. “This year we took a stance against it, but it may change in the future”.

Raj Naran, the Career Development Educator and Team Leader Career Services at CCDU said this year, the careers fair was open to everybody. “It does not have a specific focus.” Companies came from industries where there was a shortage in a skills set, like “accounting, engineering and commerce”.

He added, students should earn their jobs, develop themselves and prepare well, ‘and certainly, academic records play a role”. “It’s necessary for them to take cognisance of what they need to do and actually put stepping stones in place for them to get to where they want” he said.

Another careers fair is scheduled for September.

This article was featured in the Wits Vuvuzela

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