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University of Copenhagen
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Tough to find jobs in Denmark

Seven out of ten international graduates want to stay and work in Denmark. But after a year, only three of them are still here

International students are ‘low-hanging fruit’ that should be plucked by hungry Danish businesses. And Denmark should position itself to ‘skim the cream’, and hire more talented students coming from overseas.

These were just a few of the metaphors used by industry speakers at a seminar in Copenhagen in June, writes the Agency for International Education (IU).

That industry representatives have to talk up the value of internationals at all shows that there is a paradox in the Danish labour market.

Too many internationals just go home

While Danish businesses, despite a recent surge in unemployment, claim to be hungry for the talents of overseas graduates, they apparently squander this talent away as many internationals return home jobless.

Overseas students have international profiles, with home networks that can give access to new markets for Danish firms. They are an asset, and should fare well in the competition for jobs.

But they don’t.

A report by the think tank DEA (in Danish) showed that seven out of ten international students want to stay and work in Denmark after they graduate.

Another survey authored by the Danish Agency for International Education (IU) (in Danish) shows that after a year, only three out of ten are still here.

Denmark needs them

This is not good for Danish businesses, and not good for society.

The Danish think tank Economic Council of the Labour Movement (AE) has calculated that Denmark will need 100,000 people with a higher education in 2019.

As Marie Hansen, the head of the Danish Labour Market Authority (AMS) asked at the seminar:

»Why [do businesses… ed.] make it hard for themselves, when they can find a part of their solution here in this country?«

Internationals to blame

Danish businesses and international students have a hard time finding each other, Jannik Schack Linnemann, head of research at the Danish Chamber of Commerce said at the seminar. Businesses can market themselves better towards internationals, but internationals should »come out of the bush« too, he said.

Internationals should get better at profiling themselves on the skills that Danes don’t have. They should make a wider job search when scanning the job market, outside the big, well-known companies. And learning a bit of Danish will also help, he explained.

According to 2008-2009 figures from the education agency (IU), there were 16,500 internationals in the process of their Master’s degree in Denmark, half of them doing a full degree, the other half on exchange. The numbers have generally gone up year after year.

Don’t get the student jobs

To the University Post, Anders Geertsen, director of the IU, explains that getting internationals and jobs to find each other is like finding a love match.

The marriage has good potential, but, »the two partners must find each other first,« he says.

The biggest hurdle to overcome is in getting Danish workplaces to hire students for student jobs, as student jobs are often an excellent route to first employment after graduation. Fewer internationals are able to find student jobs in Denmark than their Danish student colleagues.

Companies should be more open

As it is now, companies and organisations are wary of hiring international students if the company language is Danish.

»But companies should remember that they can use the international students’ off-beat ideas, and that they don’t need to change the company language, as the international students are motivated to learn«, Anders Geertsen says.

For society and for businesses, it is cheaper to hire an international student before or just after graduation, than to be forced to hire the same student when he is ten years older with a PhD and a family to relocate, he explains.

What do you have to offer?

Companies should do more. But the students must woo their partners in the love match, the companies and organisations, too.

»Unless you have been on the labour market it is hard to know what it is that you have to offer. But students and graduates, not the workplaces, have the obligation to take the initiative,« he says.

»They must show what it is that they have to offer.«

He recommends that students and graduates visualise what it is that they, as an individual can that their Danish competitors can not. They should scan the Danish jobs for places where their specific skills are needed.

»Denmark is a country that lives off trading with others. A Portuguese student for example, should be asking herself. How many companies would not like to increase their market share in booming Brazil?«

Excellent tips for finding your job, or finding your employee if you are a workplace, can be found in
the Matchmaking guide, here.

See the University Post’s recent top ten inside tips for student jobs here.

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