The wall of Jobs Malaysia Office in UTC is covered with A4 papers filled with job vacancies. Out of curiosity, I had a closer look at the jobs that were available. Most of the vacancies were for general workers, clerical and technician jobs and very few for professionals. I checked the registry and found that only a handful of people register daily. Surprisingly a high percentage of job seekers are degree and diploma holders.
It is estimated that there are from 60,000 to 400,000 unemployed graduates in the country. If we presume that about 10 per cent of these are from Perak, then we have up to 40,000 unemployed graduates.
I went online and searched for “job opportunities for graduates in Perak” and noticed that there were very few jobs available for graduates.
Pusat Kerjaya Amanjaya (PEKA) is a state-owned agency functioning as a human capital development centre. It is a one-stop recruitment and entrepreneurship centre. It is the Perak state’s efforts to reduce unemployment. PEKA acts as a liaison between the community and industry to facilitate employment search and create employment opportunities.
PEKA provides Career Counselling Services, Mini Career Carnivals, Job Placement, Jobs Perak Mobile Career Roadshow and Skills Improvement Training, all with the aim of channelling the right talents to the right roles for the Perak labour market.
PEKA’s main mission is to meet the workforce needs of industries and services within the state as well as the development of a skilled Perakean workforce to support the socio-economic development of Perak.
I spoke to one of the lady officers in PEKA and though her boss was not around she was willing to talk to me. She informed that PEKA has a registry of unemployed graduates mainly from Perak. Most of these graduates have schooling and tertiary education here and have little exposure to the outside world. During one-day training sessions she said, many graduates fail to turn up in the afternoon. PEKA arranges mock interviews at factories to simulate real situations but many graduates do not turn up. It is an uphill task to motivate them.
Staff in many organisations are told not to talk to journalists and so many people are reluctant to talk to me. One of my friends in an industrial organisation which assists in finding jobs for fresh graduates said that they had a programme to develop 150 graduates and of those who turned up, only ten were engineering graduates and one factory employed all of them. They knew nothing and had to be trained from scratch and could not take the pressure and left.
When I spoke to a few academics they said we should not stereotype all the graduates. There are many who are hardworking and willing to take on any job and are already employed. The unemployed graduates have no initiative and do not have the necessary skills and are not willing to improve themselves. They admitted that in Perak there are not that many companies to absorb the big number of graduates coming out each year. So even capable graduates remain unemployed.
I wanted to meet the State Exco for Education Dato’ Dr Muhammad Amin bin Zakaria, to get his views. His office informed that he is very busy for the next two months and cannot see me. I wonder why he cannot work half an hour extra to meet me and claim overtime.
Top reasons for graduates’ unemployment are given as poor command of English, poor attitude or character and poor communications skill. Employers also felt graduates lack adaptability, multitasking skills, decision-making skills and problem-solving skills.
The reasons given are not new. What are the relevant authorities doing? The blame is put on the students. Why are the universities churning out unemployable graduates?
During my school days in the fifties my teachers told us only the cream goes to university and what is expected of a university student. Form Six students were groomed for university life.
When I joined Brunei Shell more than 40 years ago, there were only a handful of local engineers; the majority were Europeans, mainly Dutch. They were hands-on people and worked together with the technicians. My boss always asked whether I had done the job myself. He says I must have the feel of doing it.
Instead of putting the blame solely on the students, I think we must also look into the quality of our institutes of higher learning. Starting from the Vice Chancellor, we have to find out whether the academic staff are qualified for the job. The problem may be starting from there.
Unemployment of graduates is a national issue, however, as far as Perak is concerned we must attract more industries to set up plants here. Otherwise the situation would not improve.