28 February 2007

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com Please.
Wednesday February 28, 2007

A need to rebrand our graduates


A FRIEND of mine told me an alarming statistic the other day. According to the 9th Malaysia Plan, about two-thirds of Malaysian graduates would not be able to find graduate-level employment.

That means that of the more than 60,000 graduates at all levels each year, about 40,000 will not be able to get a job commensurating with their qualifications.

It’s not that we haven’t been educating people. According to the Ministry of Higher Education website, the numbers of young people going into public institutions of higher learning between 2000 and 2005 have been steadily increasing, from 54,495 to 80,885.

Funnily enough, in private institutions of higher learning, which generally take in more students than the public institutions, the numbers have been decreasing, from 178,899 to 113,105, over the same period of time.

My guess is that many have not been able to afford the private universities and had to go to the public ones.

But maybe what’s more revealing is the number of people who actually graduate from university.

Most public university students do graduate. In 2005, there were 79,934 graduates, or 98% of the intake. On the other hand, far fewer students graduate from the private universities, only 57,953 or 51% of the intake. Which may say something about the varying standards in the public and private universities.

Even more interesting for me is the level that students graduate from. Most university graduates are content with getting a first degree, with very few going on to further degrees. Which might be an indication of the need to find a job quickly. But then, that first degree itself has not made them employable.

There have been several thorough analyses why our graduates cannot find jobs. Most do not have the skills for the workplace, including communication skills. I have never had to interview many people for jobs but those who do all attest to this inability of candidates to express themselves.

I do meet many young people studying in local universities who are bright, fluent in English and happy to express their views. But what is obvious is that they are brought up in urban areas and have access to resources that help their confidence.

Yet as a government survey two years ago stated, most of the unemployed are Malays from lower-income families who lack command of the English language. Undoubtedly they also come from rural areas.

In many countries around our region, graduates who cannot find employment at home are able to go abroad to seek their fortunes. Not all will be employed to their level of learning, such as Filipina graduates who work as domestic help overseas, but the reason that they can go abroad at all is because they speak English.

Our graduates will not have that option because of poor language skills. I also doubt if ours would be willing to work as domestic help overseas just to earn money.

So much of exportable skills these days require language fluency. India has managed to tap into the call-centre business because of the availability of English speakers. So well-trained are they that in the US you can speak to someone and not realise that that person is actually in Bangalore.

Here I get calls from telemarketing people who are not only unable to speak English, but also cannot even speak beyond a script once you ask difficult questions.

We need to worry about these unemployable graduates because we cannot have bored and frustrated people milling about, because many social problems stem from unemployment.

Some might think that because most of our graduates are women, this is not a big problem because eventually they will get married. But we don’t build our universities just to have lots of housewives, nor, for that matter, fast food order-takers. We educate people to help develop the country, so they need to be put to good use.

There are many suggestions as to how to redress the situation, including retraining. But perhaps we need to also rethink employment itself.

There are many NGOs and social organisations that find it hard to get good people because people assume that either they don't pay well or they are disliked by the Government. Yet NGO work provides individuals with unique personal development experiences, different from other jobs.

We should also encourage social entrepreneurship, where people use business skills to do society some good, rather than just make profit. It’s a different way of thinking, but different is exactly what we need these days.

Besides, it earned Prof Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank, a Nobel Prize. If Bangladesh can have a Nobel laureate through social entrepreneurship, we might as well try it.