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An analysis of «demand» factors applied to the recruitment of new students for vet (vocational education & training) sector Australian business education providers

Diakov I.,
trainer, faculty of business Australian Academy of Commerce,
Sydney, Australia,

Petrov А.,
M.Chem.Eng. M.Eng.Mgmt, M.B.A, Sydney, Australia John R.,

Magin J.R.,
Grad. Dip., M. App. Sci., D.B.A. (candidate), Sydney, Australia,

Limarev P.V.,
PhD economic, associated professor in economics and marketing,
Nosov Magnitogorsk State Technical University, Russia,

Belkovsky A.N.,
methodologist of GBUK «Meshchyorsky’ Park» of the Lotoshinsky distr.,

This research paper is directed toward sin vesti gating the possible underlying factors that could be applied to facilitate and recruit potential new students to take business courses in the vocational and educational training VET sector with Australian education providers. This paper will also explore various factors which could be used to facilitate the process for education providers to increase the demand for international students which can be broadly classified as “the demand factors for the recruitment of international students by the VET sector of Australian business education providers”. The authors of this article have first-hand experience in both teaching and other areas in the VET and Higher education sectors of business education both locally and overseas, and have close contact with prospective students in their countries of origin. The VET sector has a culturally diverse student population, including students from local, international and recent immigrant backgrounds. This paper focuses on the various factors that need to be considered to facilitate teaching and learning for these different groups of students. Also, this research article will consider some argument sregarding both the positive and negative aspects of education in these previously mentioned areas. The issue of whether some areas in the study process have to be improved has recently been widely debated in our community. It is an important issue because it concerns fundamental moral and economic questions about the quality of education, job placements for current and prospective students, job placement and opportunities for future graduates, and the demands of the Higher Education providers. A variety of different arguments have been put forward about these issues. This research article will also consider arguments for the underlying purpose of a visa for international students “just for the sake of being able to have a visa”, and discusses possible immigration to Australia for those students who have got appropriate qualification sand knowledge. Furthermore, it will consider some points which are related to these problems. It will then put forward reasons for the introduction of new actions deemed necessary to encourage more potential students to come to study in Australia.

Keywords: Australia, international education, VET sector, job placement.

The current situation in the industry
It is no secret that more and more international students are coming to Australia every year, moreover, more people than ever before are choosing to undertake an international education. The large-scale transferring of students throughout the education systems means that providers need to take into consideration the challenges of the learning and teaching of the vastly increased numbers of international students in university classes. As a matter of fact, international students now make up a large part of the overall student community which is well represented in all of the education institutions in Australia. Many of these participants in the various educational programs are originally from parts of the world where English is not the first language, furthermore, it is not even a second or third language but may be where English is only taught as a foreign language in school [1]. According to the Department of  Education and Training the number of international students who have come to Australia during the period from 1994 to 2016 has significantly increased [2]. As can be seen from the bar chart below the difference between first and second parts of this period is quite significant.

This chart represents the information for five different groups of educational institutions such as Higher Education, ELICOS, VET sector, School Education, and Non-award. Firstly, the rapid growth of all these groups started in 2002 and then it increased steadily up to 2010 and almost doubled. After that, there was a slow decrease and then again significant growth throughout 2014 to 2016. So, basically, at the end of 2016 Australia had approximately 700,000 student visa holders.

The highest amount belongs to Higher Education, follow by the VET sector and ELICOS, and finally the last two are School and Non-award Education respectively.

Secondly, for example, Educational Services for Overseas Students is the fourth largest export for the Australian economy [3], according to the table below.

As a result, it is obvious that this industry is extremely valuable and lucrative for the whole country as well.

Based on the arguments that have been discussed previously it is useful to investigate and find out the situation regarding the main purpose of a student coming to Australia, and estimate the possible percentage of genuine students and those who stay here just because of the visa.

However, the definition of the phrase “just to get a visa / just for the sake of a visa” means that students want to come to the country and stay there as long as possible. In that case they are not keen on the quality of their education and the education provider they choose. Basically, they have some particular reasons which lead them to take actions and steps just to get a visa that in most cases may lead to negative conclusions and consequences. Contrary to popular belief that most of these applicants are not genuine, in the opinion of the authors, it is not actually true. Taking into account the many years’ experience of the teachers and trainers who took part in the writing of this article, there is no any doubt that in the VET sector there are a prevailing number of real and genuine students. Indeed a predominant number of students try to find any possible opportunity to attend classes in any sort of additional electives. Also, the applicants pay such high tuition and application fees that it is obvious that they want to learn something and obtain some knowledge for their future life, otherwise, there are lots of different countries around the world with a developed economy that have much lower educational expenses and cheaper living costs. In addition, coming to Australia is an opportunity to test and understand the right track for the future life for the younger generation because some of these students are at a cross roads, and they do not know where to go and what qualifications to choose. Needless to say it is a chance for them to come up with their own ideals, and develop an understanding of what they want to do, and who they want to become.

The quality of education
Australia has acquired a reputation as a country with a high quality education system and a high level of support for international students. The Assistant Minister for Department of Education and Training states that Australia’s VET system is considered to be among the world’s best because it is based on well-defined standards which is why it attracts so many international students. According to a 2014 International Student Survey conducted by the Department of Education and Training in collaboration with educational bodies, Australia is among the five most popular international study destinations followed after the USA, the UK, Germany and France [4]. Moreover, 94% of international students identify the reputation of Australia’s education system as a top reason for study there [5]. The experience of VET students indicates the level of overall satisfaction among students as 87% and in addition, there is a90% satisfaction rate in relation to teaching & learning support strategies that have been offered to students [5]. Considering the fact that the majority of VET respondents (82%) considered Australia as their first choice for study overseas, it is undeniable that despite the ‘just to get a visa / just for the sake of a visa’ factor, students do experience the quality of education and their practice forms the reputation of Australia’s education system across the globe. International students who choose VET study are provided with various benefits, which are not limited only to those practical and technical skills needed in the workplace. Being an international student means acclimatising yourself to a completely new way of  studying and a new environment. The VET sector, particularly its standards and values of teaching,  contributes to the adaptation of newly arrived students in terms of adjusting to more hours of independent study or language difficulties. For instance, lower-level qualifications provide students with industry-specific knowledge and skills in communication, literacy and numeracy, and also teamwork.

Due to the fact that the main focus of VET courses is obtaining practical skills, international students have the opportunity to familiarise themselves with how their potential workplace works, and they can develop and improve their interpersonal skills which will be highly beneficial for them as newly arrived foreigners and will help them to sample their field of interest.

In addition, private registered training organisations offers various types of services for students to enhance their learning experience. More than half of the registered training organisations offer career counselling for their students. Furthermore, more that 40% of RTOs offer personal counselling, followed by 36% who provide students with relevant academic counselling. The services may also include computer and library facilities, study assistance, accommodation services, and assistance with concerns about fees [6].

In addition, many graduates believe that obtaining Australian qualifications will enhance their chances of successful employment in their home country. Other reports support that belief, as employers in key source countries, such as China, prefer graduates with exposure to the workplace [7].

Together with the high-standards of teaching and training, the nature of VET education itself allows international students to experience the high class of education services in Australia and obtain qualifications that will help international students face competition in the poststudy labour market in their home country.

However, an important factor that needs to be considered when the student is looking for an education provider with the necessary level of quality of education is education agencies.

It is obvious that these organizations are aiming to help applicants choose the most convenient and even the most competitive college or university. Education agents in Australia represent the education providers. Although, it is commonly known that the market is very competitive and the VET sector together with the higher education sector expect educational agents to add value to the product the institutions offer to their customers. The consolidated performance of the education providers and their operatives who represent them support international students with living in Australia and overcoming any difficulties which may arise. As a result agents can high light the differences between similar courses offered by different higher education providers. The ‘added value’ component can come up in the form of a number of suggestions and propositions that education agents usually propose to clients and any other additional components which might contribute to the services the education organisation offers and normally stays “out of the scope” of the education agents. In most cases the education agents or agencies provide customers with all of the correct and appropriate information that relates to the particular provider or providers and the courses they can offer the future students [8].

Finally, agents are something similar to a 24/7 support line as they are usually available any time students need them. Moreover, in most situations they organise airport pick up and accommodation settlement. Some people argue that any sort of intermediary action means extra expenses but this is not true because according to the government’s regulations, education providers have to pay their agents without increasing the tuition fee soft the prospective students.

Job placement for students
International students come to Australia for various reasons and different factors affect their decision. Apart from just the opportunity to have a visa or study with high-quality educational providers, international students in Australia are able to work up to 40 hours fortnightly and work unlimited hours when their course is not in session (i.e. when they are on holidays from their course) [9]. Vocational education is focused mainly on providing practical skills for the required professions, and the opportunity to work during their studies helps international students to interact with others in the community and get better practice with their skills. Therefore, the opportunity to work during their studies and gain local experience before coming back to their home country is very appealing for many VET students.

International students have various opportunities in terms of employment and getting experience in a work situation. Apart from paid part-time or casual work they can do unpaid placements, mentoring programs or work in an integrated learning placement. From the employer’s perspective engaging with international students is very beneficial as international students represent a valuable and largely untapped resource for Australian organisations.

Through cooperation with the students, Australian businesses can enhance their understanding of the business and social etiquette, cultural nuances, language and communication styles of the regions from which these students come and in addition it will contribute to building a network of relationships. Moreover, businesses which do not consider overseas expansion can also benefit significantly from cultural diversity within organisations. Companies that are culturally diverse are known to understand and represent their customer base better. They can also be more innovative, have more engaged and satisfied employees, and are more profitable overall [10].

Recent research released by Australian National University migration researcher Henry Sherrell, who linked employment data from the 2011 Census to addresses and biographic details of temporary visa holders, revealed a large scale insight into the working lives of international students in Australia. According to the research, more that 30% of foreign students stated that they have a job, with approximately 15% working in the hospitality industry,11% were cleaners and laundry workers, 10 %were sales assistants and 8% were food preparation assistants [11].

As a result, there is evidence that international students who have the intention to not limit their learning experience to studying in the class have many opportunities with regards to job placement during studies. More over a student’s desire to work and gain experience in practising their skills matches with Australia’s employers demands for diversity and innovations.

VET and higher education provision, job placement for graduates
Apart from other benefits that the VET sector offers to students, completing a VET course provides a pathway into the higher education sector. Considering the national standards for qualifications and the RPL (Recognition of Prior Learning) schemes, students are often allowed to gain a credit and therefore move up the qualifications ladder with ease. Therefore, VET diplomas and advanced diplomas can be an educational ladder of opportunity by providing access to higher education for students from disadvantaged backgrounds [12].

In 2014, there were 81,164 international students who commenced a higher education course of study in Australia for the first time and of this group, 6.6 % of students were VET graduates [13]. Considering this small fraction of vocational students, students need to be aware of the pathways which are offered by the Australian educational sector but also understand the potential opportunities.

The vocational education sector is sometimes called a ‘stepping stone’ into further studies in the higher education environment. Many universities in Australia have established credit arrangements with vocational providers, and consequently the development of these shared academic agreements between the sectors would undoubtedly assist the international students to transit between the sectors [14].

The granting of credit advance employment opportunities, promotes the valuing of current studies and the seeking of strategic opportunities to continue learning, growth and development, so overall, students benefit from the endorsement of prior knowledge and skills [15].

Al though the higher education providers have to consider how best to incorporate the recognition of the skills and knowledge that the international students bring with them from the VET sector within the teaching and learning environment in higher education institutions [14], the efficiency of those pathways is shown in the 2008 report of the Review of Australian Higher Education. According to the Report, the importance of pathways between vocational education and training and higher education in meeting labour market and industry needs is highly emphasised, and that “Articulation from VET to higher education was seen as vital to increasing participation” [16].

Articulation arrangements can stimulate a sharing of knowledge between the vocational sector and higher education providers and this is demonstrated in the clear detailing of opportunities and learning pathways provided to international students. These arrangements accordingly have a broader impact for more marketable graduates, and for employers in acknowledging scaffolded qualifications that contribute to increasing usable skill sets from their employees, in turn adding value to their organisation as students proceed through the completion of their education. As a result those transportable arrangements can assist the congruence between educational institutions and industry [15].

Needless to say by considering their high quality qualifications after graduating, international students may be eligible for various employment opportunities. Australian companies are also interested in hiring international graduates for various reasons. First of all, it significantly increases the talent pool and employers can choose the best candidates for their organisation and are not limited to only local graduates. Also, having a culturally diverse workforce will benefit the organisation by bringing different skills, attitudes and ideas from all over the world and consequently can increase the level of innovation in the workplace. Furthermore, introducing current staff to different ways of working and different cultures is crucial in today’s globalised world [10].

There are a few options for graduates who want to gain experience and work after graduation. If you are a recent graduate from an Australian education institution and want to work in Australia, you might be eligible for a Temporary Graduate visa which gives you full working rights in Australia for up to 4 years depending on your qualifications.

If students want short-term work, they might opt for a Temporary Work (Short Stay Specialist) Visa. This visa will allow graduates do to short-term, highly specialised, nonongoing work in Australia.

Also, employers can sponsor or nominate graduates to remain in Australia on both a temporary and a permanent basis.

To sum up, the role for employers in this industry is also crucial, as they are the part of the collaborative process of pathways development, possibly as an equal player working with VET and higher education institutions to build pathways related to workforce needs.

Collaboration with industry could also involve an improved dialogue between employer and professional bodies and the relevant skills councils to support skills needs and pathways into professional work. As a result, a VET to higher education pathway is highly beneficial for both industry and students, as it enables educational opportunities for international students, knowledgeable graduates for the higher education sector and a qualified workforce for industry and employers [17].The employability of international graduates in Australia and abroad is probably the best branding approach for Australian universities as it enhances the value of an Australian degree and ensures that Australia remains a global leader in international education.

Immigration pathways
Australia is one of the most popular destinations for degree-seeking students from overseas because the level of its educational institutions is very competitive internationally. A degree from an Australian educational provider can help increase a student’s employment opportunities not only in Australia but all around the world. Many international student shave come to Australia to pursue a college, university or postgraduate degree during the last two years, according to the Immigration Department’s statistics. On balance, there are some advantages and disadvantages about studying in Australia. The most obvious of the disadvantages is cost.

International students pay substantially more than their fellow Australian students to attend an educational institution here. In addition to higher fees, there are some limitations for international students such as they are not entitled to public transport concessions and must pay for their own private health insurance cover. Moreover, they are entitled to work only forty hours a fortnight (a fortnight is 2 weeks). However, in comparison to the US and the UK, tuition fees in Australia are highly competitive, because the Australian dollar for the last few years has been worth significantly less than the American dollar and the British pound [18].

Despite all of this, the opportunity to stay and settle down in Australia always was and always will be a significant factor which attracts international students to come to Australia. Based on a number of surveys in the past, it is clear that some students who were granted a student visa, and came to Australia for the VET course, successfully completed this course and then went to university. After their university graduation some of them suddenly realised that they wanted to stay in Australia forever. For this reason, they started looking for ways to apply for a permanent visa, and in most cases they found a way because they have already completed a course in Australia. Needless to say that if these highly qualified specialists could manage to survive and integrate into Australian society then they deserve a chance to get permanent residency. Moreover, due to the fact that they are skilled specialists then Australia needs them as well. There are a number of different visas that let young and middle aged skilled professionals apply for residency and have a good, economically stable life. Although an Australian university degree is definitely an advantage when applying for permanent residency at the same time applicants should be aware that it is not a guarantee of success.

Potential applicants who are going to use their education as a path to permanent migration should realize that university qualifications in skills that are not on the Skilled Occupation List or in some states The Occupation Lists in Demand might not help them much when they apply through the Skilled Migration Program. International graduates must look for professional immigration assistance from qualified and registered Australian migration agents. In addition, Australia is the most successful immigrant nation on Earth. The global community comprises 195 sovereign nations, 90 of which have a critical mass of 10 million or more residents [19].

The vast majority of immigrants nowadays are skilled and that is one of the most powerful and outstanding strategies of the Australian migration system. People who get permanent residency based on the Independent Skills Immigration Scheme have a definite advantage to those who have arrived in the country using other pathways because they are in demand by potential employers.

By adopting a proactive role, Australian VET education providers as well as the Australian government can significantly increase the demand for international students in the VET sector of Australian education. VET education providers should work closely together with the partnering education agencies and other stakeholders of the education services for the overseas students industry to provide more students who are genuine students for Australian education providers.

The “demand” factors of the recruitment of international students should be given more attention by Australian VET sector institutions to compensate for the “supply” factors, which have been given an overwhelmingly higher priority because of the extended commercialisation of education in Australia since the late 80s. The authors have found some key factors such as the quality of education, articulation with Australian higher education providers, job placements for students as well as for graduates from both the VET and Higher Education sectors and the demand for Australian visas and permanent residency. The Australian VET sector education providers and the government working together should explore the key “demand” factors of the recruitment of international students to encourage those students who are genuine to enrol with Australian VET education providers. It can be achieved by working together with overseas education providers collaborating with Australian institutions using the most efficient education agencies which are able and willing to follow these policies. As a result, Australian education providers will receive large amounts of international students who are also more likely to comply with the standards of a genuine temporary entrant to Australia. It will definitely benefit the Australian VET education providers, the Australian economy and society as well as international students.

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