Asia-savvy graduates can help business

05 September 2011

Students at last week’s Asia-Savvy Conference heard how their understanding of Asia can create opportunities for New Zealand companies doing business in Asia.

Professor Hugh Whittaker, Director of the New Zealand Asia Institute, says the student-run conference brought students together with potential employers at the Business School to raise awareness and improve the employment prospects of Asia-savvy graduates.

“At one level, nationally we recognise the importance of Asia, and many businesses recognise the importance of Asia. Our commodity exports, especially food commodity exports, to Asia are increasing,” Hugh says.

“But in some other sectors, we can still see a preference to do business with English-speaking countries, such as Australia, the US and the UK, if at all possible. At a deeper level, we are still far from engaging productively with Asia. Many businesses are avoiding it, but could find great new opportunities with the help of Asia-savvy students.”

Hugh believes we have a large number of Asia-savvy students, but their talents need to be developed.

“So both in universities through the courses we teach, and beyond into employment, we have an important job in developing the knowledge and abilities of our Asia-savvy students.

“As a nation, our understanding of Asia is partial. We know Asia is important, but Asian Studies and Asian content in our University and schools are limited, and many of our businesses don’t know how to engage with the emerging opportunities in Asia. While our exports to Asia have increased, we could do much more business, and with a wider range of goods and services, with more creative partnerships and other kinds of collaborations.”

His views were addressed at the two-day conference, which saw panel discussions and speakers talking about where Asia-savvy graduates can find jobs, what they value in their relationships with New Zealand and how our universities can enhance the “Asia-savviness” of students.

Speakers included David Walker, deputy secretary for the Americas, Asia, Middle East and Africa at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Asian MPs Melissa Lee and Raymond Huo.

Owen Glenn also spoke during the Friday afternoon session, sharing some insights into the work his company, OTS Logistics Group, is doing in China and saying opportunities abound for Asia-savvy graduates to create new opportunities for New Zealand businesses.