The impact of study abroad on employability in Canada

Students are graduating into a complex job market. Therefore, standing out from the other candidates can be crucial when applying for a job. 

Data seems to indicate that studying abroad can positively affect students’ employability in a challenging market once they return home. Read on to find out just how studying abroad impacts graduates’ employability.

How easy is it for Canadians to find a job?

To start, we are going to take a look at what the job market is looking like in Canada nowadays. Firstly, we will focus on employability across age groups. Then we will look at employability across education levels.

Employability across age groups

The percentage of Canadians employed varies across age groups. Overall, as we can see in the chart below, Canadian youth is less likely to have a job than older Canadians. In 2019, the employment rate for youth between the ages of 15 and 30 was 67.3% versus 83.7% and 83.6% for Canadians aged 31 to 44 and 45 to 54, respectively.

Not only is employability lower for youth than for older Canadians, but it is also subject to a substantial variation across the different age groups among young people. Among youth, those aged 15 to 19 solely, 43.2% were employed in 2019, whereas the ones aged 20 to 24 had 70.2%, and individuals aged 25 to 30 had an 81.2% of employment rate.

Chart of employment rate across age groups in Canada

Youth employment across education levels

As mentioned above, there is a significant variation in employment rates among young people across different age groups. In the following paragraph, we will see how the difference in education level impacts this rate.

The chart below shows that highly educated youth have a higher employment rate than those less educated. 83.4% of bachelor’s degree holders had a job in 2019, versus the 39.3% that qualified lower than a high school degree and the 64.3% of high school graduates.

Empoyment rate across education levels

Are employers satisfied with the quality of students’ education in Canada?

Student standing up and leaving class with books in arms
Foto de javier trueba en Unsplash

Studies suggest that universities aren’t always successful in providing graduates with the critical thinking skills companies seek. 

In a recent interview, Harvey Weingarten, former president of the University of Calgary, said that 1 in 5 students in the Ontario college and university system are graduating with literacy and numeracy levels that do not meet the basic standards. 

Research studies suggest that 30 to 40% of students must demonstrate change or improvement in critical thinking during their first two years of education.

What percentage of Canadian students study abroad?

Entering the labor market, Canadian students frequently lack the soft skills and work experience employers seek, even though they possess relevant hard skills. 

Periods of studying or working abroad can help develop crucial abilities such as listening and speaking skills, a better understanding of other cultures, patience and teamwork, and, what is more, becoming more empathetic and relating to others.

However, only 11% of Canadian students choose to study abroad, which is a significant difference compared to France, where 33% of their students are pursuing a degree studying abroad.

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Are they more employable?

Thanks to globalization and the development of new technologies, the job market has become more competitive. That’s why standing out from the other candidates can make a difference when applying for a job. 

Students with international experience have usually developed skills instrumental for today’s workers. Studying abroad and engaging with different perspectives and realities can broaden horizons and change how they approach problems and situations, developing their creativity, which is one of the traits employers are most drawn to. 

As a result, many surveys show that having an experience abroad – an exchange term, a study abroad course, a research project, a cooperative education work term, or any of a variety of other activities – can easily enhance future employability and help them succeed in a globalized and ever-changing work environment.

How does this compare to non-study abroad students?

A survey conducted by IES Abroad in 2012 showed that 90% of study-abroad alums found their first job within 6 months of graduation. In contrast, only 49% of the general college graduates found work within a year of finishing school.

Also, studying abroad could get you a higher salary. A 2018 study by Hostelworld showed that 41% of employers surveyed had said they would be willing to consider offering more money to candidates who studied abroad.

What careers do study-abroad students generally go into?

report conducted by IIE shows that studying abroad impacts employability. Let’s see how this experience contributes to a job offer, depending on the academic focus.

Students from Foreign Language programs are the ones that most believe that studying abroad contributed to a job offer with 65%, followed by Legal Studies and Law Enforcement, and Business and Management students at 57% and Multi & General Studies and Education at 56%, respectively.

On the other hand, the students who least believe this experience impacted their careers are those who belong to the Fine and Applied Arts field, at only 32%.

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The benefits of studying abroad

As mentioned before, studying abroad helps students develop specific skills that are key for the labor market. A survey of study abroad participants showed which skills they believe to have improved throughout their experience abroad. 

Intrapersonal competencies

When asked about intrapersonal competencies, 76% of participants said that studying abroad significantly improved their Intercultural skills, 75.4% referred to their flexibility and adaptability, 71.8% to their self-awareness, 45% to their tolerance for ambiguity, and only 25.7% to their work ethic.

Cognitive competencies

Concerning cognitive competencies, 75.4% of the students surveyed reported that their time abroad developed their curiosity, 74.1% their confidence, 52.7% their ability to problem-solve, 48.4% their language skills, 44.6% their course or major knowledge and only 5.4% their technical/software skills.

Interpersonal competencies

Regarding interpersonal competencies, 58.6% of study-abroad alums reported enrichment of their interpersonal skills, 54.2% of their communication skills, 30% of their teamwork skills, and 27.2% of their leadership skills.

Conclusion

Throughout this article, we’ve seen how studying abroad positively impacts students’ lives.

However, only 11% of university students in Canada choose to study abroad, which is a significant difference compared to other countries. Canadian students frequently need more soft skills and work experience than employers seek, even though they possess relevant hard skills. And since the labor market is so competitive nowadays, lacking these abilities translates into a high unemployment rate. 

Periods of studying or working abroad are a growing experience for students in several aspects of their lives, such as developing these skills. It also contributes to employment opportunities and higher payment rates.

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