Preparing students for the Global Workplace

The 2017 ASET conference focused on the role of international placements and work opportunities in supporting students to work in multinational and multicultural organizations across the UK and the world. Whilst we know that employers value students with a diverse work experience background, at Trendence UK we are passionate about understanding how students envision the global workplace and international placements. We ran a snap survey and in 48 hours we collected 350+ responses that provided us rich qualitative data. Combining this with the data collected in our annual Graduate survey of over 62,000 responses , we got a nuanced picture of both the profile of students that tend to have international work experience and their thoughts on the outcome of their training.

First of all, we wanted to see what are the students' expectations from their first job and how they perceive their future workplace. The overwhelming majority had an optimistic view, thinking that living in a world focused on connectivity will be enable them to learn about different cultures, and explore diverse ideas. They did not, however, disregard the personal and professional challenges that come with increased interdependence:

A multicultural workplace with lots of different people who give different insight on the same topic. (Male, University of Abertay University)

A workplace that has an interest in bettering the world and coming up with ideas and strategies that apply to various countries. (Female, University of Leicester)

As multiculturalism is intrinsically related to the notion of the global workplace, we asked respondents to define the benefits and challenges of working in a multicultural team. In terms of benefits, students appreciated the value of being exposed to different working styles, ideas, and experiences that would enable them to find innovative solutions, and also help them as individuals to become more open-minded, and improve their team-working skills. Nonetheless, working in a diverse team does come with challenges, the biggest one by far being the language barriers (10% of students talked about them) and overcoming cultural differences.

In spite of these challenges, students seem to be prepared to confront them and find solutions: 61% of them believe that they will be working outside the UK for at least a year after they graduate. However, only 15% of students have done a placement outside the UK and 70% would like to do one.

In terms of the availability of international work opportunities, 61% of UK national students believe that Brexit will affect the number of opportunities available. Brexit seems less of a problem for international students. In January 2017, we conducted a special survey on the effects of Brexit, and 29% of international students said that they changed their post-graduation plans as a result of Brexit and our Graduate Survey (62,000+ responses) has reconfirmed the pattern: in 2017, 31% of 1st year international students plan to leave the UK after they finish their studies (compared to only 16% in 2016). However, UK national students will be more likely to remain in the UK, especially those interested in the Accounting and Financial Management and Banking & Financial services. It is thus likely in the following years we could experience the brain drain of UK-trained international students, but it can be compensated by more UK national students deciding to stay in the country.

Our studies have those showed that students value diverse work opportunities, considering them a chance to develop both personally and professionally. The main challenge for the industries and universities thus remains to provide them with the opportunities to develop in a political context that increasingly limits their chances.

At Trendence UK, we use both qualitative and quantitative data to help schools, universities, and employers find the best solutions to engage students and understand their views.