Saturday, March 25

Graduates face even bleaker job prospects


WITH the economic downturn, falling oil price and weakening Ringgit, Malaysia is looking at dim prospects in various fields.

Not long ago, the Oriental Daily reported the Malaysian Employers’ Federation (MEF) was estimating a fall from 65 per cent to 40 per cent next year in employment rate for the country’s university graduates, striking fears among the students as – based on the Federation’s reckoning – half of them would be jobless once they passed out of university.

MEF chief Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan revealed a projected 25-million-strong human power was churned out for the country each year by domestic and foreign universities, technical schools and also organisations responsible of retraining laid-off workers. The pertinent question here is how could the current local job market cater to this kind of demand?

Another point of contention is the quality of most of the local graduates.

David Martins, Dean of the Business School from the University of Tun Hussien Onn, Malaysia, once noted the real problem of our university students lay not in their skills level but rather their deficiency in English – a scenario not attuned to the expectations of their potential employers.

Logically, if that were the case, how did the students handle their courses in the first place? Most of the learning materials in universities are in English. If the students really had a poor grasp of the language, how could they even have been able to comprehend the materials being imparted? Again, while going through their studies, how much could they really absorb and gain in terms of academic excellence or technical skills, considering the lectures were conducted in a language they were not proficient at.

Nevertheless, David Martins still believes for a student looking for a job, good grades are not necessarily critical. Communication skills, independent thinking and proper responsibilities all play a big part. That said, can exam grades, at the same time, not reflect a student’s attitude and ability?

Regrettably, the country’s education policy-makers are still reluctant to come to grips with the root cause of the problem, and despite the obvious impracticalities, continue to abide by the Key Performance Indicator (KPI) baseline by allowing a large number of admissions into universities, impacting unfavourably, as a result, on courses such as medicine where it is not uncommon to see students giving up halfway, and with it, the opportunity for a career as practising physicians.

It’s indeed hard to say whether such a situation has actually brought us greater fortune or misfortune but given the present education policy, there surely must be some “defective goods” in the job marketas we speak.

This does not only relate to medicine but every industry – law, engineering, accounting, computing and even teaching. Year in and year out, graduates from all fields of studies jam-pack the job market but unfortunately, as mentioned by MCA president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, most of them “cannot pakai already.”

Just by imagining half of the graduates may not be employed (or employable) next year, one can relate to the magnitude of the problem the country will face – if it’s not already facing – in producing a highly skilled workforce or human capital to meet future global challenges.