Thanks to David Gee, Director of GradLink UK, for this guest blog detailing how tech employers can utilise the Graduate Route to effortlessly hire talented international students.

The UK’s widespread skills shortages can only be filled with the help of international students, according to Nick Hillman, Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), in a recent paper. 

And the good news for employers is that it is now easier than ever to recruit international students into job roles. 

The UK’s Graduate Route, introduced in July 2021, means that employers can now recruit international students into any role for up to two years after they graduate without the need for sponsorship. This means there are absolutely no additional fees or admin, making it just as easy to recruit them as UK-based students. 

With the majority of international students choosing postgraduate courses in areas such as business and technology, they represent a rich pool of talent for the industry, and yet, as pointed out by HEPI in their paper, entitled, ‘Not heard of this’, just 3% of employers have knowingly used the Graduate Route to tackle their skills shortages.

Why are international students well-placed to meet the skills gap in the tech sector?

International students represent 1 in 4 students studying in the UK, according to HESA data, and this includes over 200,000 studying STEM subjects such as computing, engineering and mathematics.

Further, around half of international students are studying postgraduate qualifications (compared to 27% of UK students), meaning that they are not only studying their subject at a very high level, but are also often bringing several years of commercial experience with them.

At UWE Bristol, Master’s courses in AI, Cybersecurity and Fintech are among the most popular subjects chosen by international students. 

In addition to the above, it’s worth mentioning that international students can bring language skills, international contacts and multicultural awareness to your company. 

So why have employers been backwards in coming forwards?

Historically, employers have found it difficult to recruit international students because of the stipulations, fees and red tape associated with graduate visas. 

Before July 2021, employers had to become a sponsor and could only recruit international students into a ‘graduate level’ role with a salary of £21k or higher, depending on the government’s code of practice salary for that role. This all had to be done before the candidate’s study visa expired, around 3-4 months after their graduation.

The new Graduate Route removes all fees and stipulations for two years after graduation, giving candidates and employers more time to find the right fit.

However, the problem, as alluded to by the title of the aforementioned HEPI paper, is that employers have indeed ‘not heard of’ the Graduate Route and the benefits it brings.  Speakers at a recent All-Party Parliamentary Group agreed that the Graduate Route is an attractive proposition but expressed concerns over employer awareness of it. Further, Anne Marie Graham, chief executive of UKCISA, made the point that even employers who were aware needed guidance and reassurance about the route from the government.

The dual boon of a rich talent supply and ease of access to it makes now a great time to consider recruiting international students and graduates to fill your skills and talent gaps.   

A free award-winning jobs portal for recruiting international talent

GradLink is a careers site set up by UWE Bristol for international students and graduates from all universities and HE institutions across the UK. 

GradLink is completely free to all – including employers. The service is a Times Higher award winner and has been shortlisted for the award three times. In response to the Graduate Route, and with the support of FinTech West, GradLink has introduced a new UK section where employers can recruit international students and graduates from over 100 universities completely free of charge. 

Employers can build their own profile on the GradLink site, advertise vacancies, search the site’s CV database, and contact candidates directly. Why not register your company here now?