Nearly 60% of this graduate remain unemployed one year after graduation, according to a study by the Ministry of Education Malaysia’s Graduate Tracer Study. The majority or 55% of these unemployed graduates are degree holders. The reality is being a graduate no longer guarantees immediate employment.
Feedback from, employers and industry players, there is a general consensus that the gap between what is being taught in local institutions of higher learning teach and what the industry or job market expect is widening thus making Malaysian graduates less employable. Graduates from public universities are not equipped with right level of technical and soft skills to compete in the job market.
There are numerous factors contributing to unemployment among the fresh graduates in Malaysia. Generally, employers especially in the SME sector have a negative perception towards Malaysian graduates, where they find the Malaysian graduates tend to lack the skills and knowledge required by employers. The SME sector is actually the employees 90% of the Malaysian workforce. A majority of local graduates lack communication skills especially mastery of English, analytical skills, technical skills including problem solving skills. Studies show that the graduates from international universities have a higher level of employability compared to the local graduates.
Whilst blaming the local institutions of higher learning for this dilemma is not farfetched but this is not going to change the situation. The government has in the past initiated numerous initiatives/ programs to help the unemployed graduates and one such was the SLIM programs and (Skim Latihan Satu Malaysia) aimed at enhancing the employability skills of Malaysian graduates.
One question that needs to raised is, what are the unemployed graduates doing about this situation rather then complaining. A survey finding shows that a majority of graduates register on online job sites and wait for potential employers contact them. Some of them have only attended less than 5 interviews in 2 years. The REAL problem is, the most unemployed graduates lack the desire and drive to succeed or change their lives.
What needs to Change?
Willingness to Explore New Possibilities: The willingness to get of their comfort zone and explore new possibilities, not confined to one’s field of study. This is where the non-graduates are able to compete with graduates, as far as non-graduate is concerned, they have nothing to lose but continuously make themselves employable in any situation. The favourite term used by recruiters “the right talent, in the right position” is actually a myth. The reality is you will never get your dream job or the perfect job. By exploring beyond their chosen field of studies, the chances of an unemployed graduate getting a suitable job, fitting his/her skill set is quite high.
Learning New Skills. Graduates need to make themselves more marketable and equip themselves with multiple skills that are not confined to their area of study. The truth is the millennials today are highly tech savvy regardless of their field of studies, making them highly adaptable to digitalization. With the emergence of IR 4.0, a key observation by recruitment experts worldwide is the impact of digitalisation on traditional job role in across all industries sectors. Where there is an emerging high demand for digital professionals in the following fields: data analytics, cyber security and IT regulations. This includes HR, logistic and marketing professionals needing to equipped themselves with digital knowledge and skill sets. Fresh graduates currently find themselves in a situation where they are under-qualified and inexperienced for many high-skilled jobs, but are overqualified for the remaining available jobs. So upskilling or embracing new skills and knowledge is critical for fresh graduates to fulfil their full potential.
Realistic Expectation. Most employers especially in the SME sector complain, that fresh graduates are expecting very high starting salaries. The disparity between the poor knowledge and skill set this graduates present during the job interview and their expected salary is too glaring to ignore. Graduates are probably under the impression that there is “a fixed minimum salary” for fresh graduates. The fact is salaries are based on i.e. function of the job, minimum academic qualification needed, skills set and knowledge required. Including competency and capability needed to drive the job deliverables. Having a degree may be part of the minimum requirement but experience, knowledge are critical skills sets are key deciding factors for salary levels. Unemployed graduates must be willing to settle for lower salaries to start and continuously work on improving knowledge and experience which would lead to better salaries through career growth.
In conclusion, unemployed graduates can to choose wait for government initiatives to support them and make them employable or they can get of their comfort zone and explore the job market to find a job that suit their skill sets.