Jobs for graduates

Colombo witnessed yet another demonstration on Thursday, this time by unemployed graduates. The very term “unemployed graduates” sounds like an oxymoron and in a way, it is. In the normal course of events, all graduates should find suitable employment once they pass out of university. But judging by Thursday’s events, this does not always happen and there are many graduates who cannot find any form of employment.

There are several factors that lead to this unenviable situation. The most basic reason is that the graduates are not armed with skills and qualifications that match the requirements of the job market. Overall, Sri Lanka has a very low unemployment rate for a developing country. Still, plenty of vacancies exist if the applicants have the right skills and qualifications.

If you go through the ‘Employment Opportunities’ section of our sister newspaper the Sunday Observer, you will see hundreds of jobs advertised by various companies here and abroad. The question arises as to why our graduates cannot apply for at least some of these jobs. The simple answer is that they cannot – their qualifications do not tally with those required by the world of industry and commerce in the wider world. In fact, this is a malady that pervades the entire education sector, which is still not geared to produce students who are properly oriented and equipped for the job market.

Another major factor is the graduates’ lack of English knowledge. Most private sector jobs (and even many Government ones) require fluency in English. Unfortunately, many negative connotations prevail among students on learning the much-feared “Kaduwa” (university parlance for English). These days should be over now. Today, one cannot move ahead in life without a good knowledge of English, which is vital for day to day work in the private and public sectors.

The third factor is fairly obvious – the Government just cannot provide employment to every graduate. Sri Lanka already has a bloated public service that employs more than one million people. Yes, public servants form a staggering one twentieth of the total population. Since only a few public entities actually earn any income (such as the Customs, Inland Revenue etc), all other public sector institutions have to be funded by the Government. In many departments and agencies, the approved cadre has been exceeded and until more people retire, it is not possible to employ newcomers. The only exception so far is the medical profession, where almost all interns get a permanent appointment in the Government health sector. This may not be possible a few years down the road due to the above-mentioned reason.

Most graduates know that there is no demand at all from any employer, public or private, for some of the subjects they follow. They should not assume that the Government is in a position to employ them all. This attitude must change. Most foreign Governments do not grant appointments to graduates, doctors included. They have to find jobs on their own.

The best way to address the graduate unemployment problem is to tailor the entire education curricula from Ordinary Level to University to suit the job market. More attention should be paid to the teaching of vocational subjects which are in high demand in the industry. There should also be an emphasis on English and other foreign languages to catch the overseas job market too.

Some years ago, the private sector initiated a programme called “Tharuna Aruna” where graduates were placed in private sector companies for around six months to give them a practical idea of corporate culture and work, in addition to English in a business environment. Some of the graduates were then inducted to the companies concerned. This programme should be revived to at least partially solve the graduate unemployment issue.

More graduates should also be directed towards self-employment and Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs). One unfortunate result of free education is that students are conditioned to get everything from the State without ever striving to do anything on their own. However, there are many paths to employment other than the Government sector. The graduates can be guided towards self-employment and SME projects by a relevant institution in partnership with the universities.

Another lacuna in our university education system that the students are locked-in to their initial course for the duration of the degree programme. In many other countries, students can switch courses midway if they feel that an alternative course has better job prospects. The possibility of introducing such an arrangement here should be explored.

All university students and degree holders, including those who protest against SAITM and graduate unemployment, must remember one vital fact: university admission is a rare privilege in this country. Only 26,000 students are enrolled into Government universities per year and around 150,000 students who gain the minimum entry qualifications are left out with little options for higher education. All university students and graduates must therefore make the best out of that opportunity without necessarily trying to depend on Governmental support for the rest of their lives. 


There are 3 Comments

General degree in Arts or Science is ideal for employing graduates as teachers in secondary schools. As there is no career path or a satisfactory pay no motivation to go for teaching in secondary schools so they look for other avenues like Law, Accountancy, Engineering. In the number crunching era there are plenty of jobs if the degree has at least one subject with statistics or econometrics.which contribute a lot to analytical skills which are marketable. For this to happen the dons should change the curriculum but are they willing is the question.

The Editorial has highlighted the main issues and solution unemployed graduates. The plight of the unemployed graduates is pathetic. It is partly their own seeking in failing to acquire basic communication skills, experience and practical approach to the job market requirements. The graduates must grab any job irrespective of their academic qualifications to get hands on experience in any field.

Age family social responsibilities create a need for financial needs for various needs and wants including survival employment will not come out of air. Productive businesses or institution either in private or within government must be there. Every action has are action. Government of the country seems preoccupied by themselves their family friends if not in a group outside chances are you must argue gight communicate know at least another language not Sinhalese tamil but English. National languages taught in many but not always useful yes education must include high grade good reference god character basic manners nice personality. Good luvk to you all

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