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April 15, 2013

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Expat job fair holds lessons on finding work

WHILE foreigners are looking for a variety of career opportunities in Shanghai, teaching English remains the easiest job to get and the first choice among many foreign job seekers, especially recent graduates and those with less work experience.

There remains a large demand for native English-speaking teachers on the part of schools and education businesses in China. Other types of businesses, however, are not looking so much for foreign faces but for those with world-class talent who understand Western thought and have specialized skills, who also can speak Mandarin.

At a job fair for foreigners in Jing'an District yesterday, nearly half of the 60 or so exhibitors were international schools, local colleges and universities, and English and Mandarin training institutes.

"We've seen a huge talent gap in foreign English teachers in China," said Cathy Xiao, customer manager of Shanghai-based Ylingo International Studies and Communication Inc. "As long as foreigners have a bachelor's degree, an accredited teaching certificate and one to two years' teaching experience, they can easily find a job teaching English in China," Xiao said.

The monthly salary of a foreign English teacher at public schools is around 8,000 yuan (US$1,292) to 10,000 yuan, and 10,000 yuan to 20,000 yuan at private schools, according to Xiao.

However, not all foreigners and native English speakers can be good teachers. Many schools and language institutes at the fair require work experience.

"A bachelor's degree in marketing doesn't mean they can teach," said Roger Sinnett, director of Education, Oxford International College of China. "A lot of applicants have certificates but they don't have experience."

Sinnett suggested foreigners concentrate on becoming career teachers rather than applying for every job they could do at the job fair. "What these applicants did is like fishing. Sitting for a whole day, they might catch nothing at all," Sinnett said.

Several foreigners at yesterday's job fair said they found it hard to find a job in Shanghai.

Giada, an Italian student of Shanghai Normal University, said there were few firms at the job fair in her field. She is graduating this summer with a master's degree in business and finance.She declined to give her full name.

"The job market is competitive. Chinese students have advantages over us because they can speak both Mandarin and English, which is appreciated by employers here," Giada said.

Forest Jiang, general manager of Zhangjiagang Furui Heavy Equipment Co Ltd, said his company wants foreigners with specialized knowledge who can help the company better communicate with global partners.

"We only need foreigners with high-end technology backgrounds," he said.

Still, some foreign job seekers were optimistic. "There are indeed several job opportunities in China, though not in the conventional sense of the phrase," said Adrian Cisneros-Aguilar, a job seeker. Aguliar said a lot of foreign job seekers overlook this fact, and as a result, they arrive at job fairs with a "do you have a China job for me?" attitude.

"In my opinion, China needs entrepreneurs, not mere employees," Cisneros-Aguilar said.


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