Saturday, February 20, 2016

Many questions raised on grads demanding mainly State jobs

From The Sunday Times online - By Chrishanthi Christopher

Corporate sector discriminating against grads, say policy makers

Last week’s protest by the unemployed graduates demanding they be granted State jobs has opened up a debate as to why these youth holding degree certificates from reputed national universities cannot find employment in the private sector.
According to the Unemployed Graduates’ Association there are around 25,000 graduates who have passed out of the fourteen universities in the country and are jobless for the last four years.
While the policy makers and advisors on education point a finger at the corporate sector blaming the companies for discriminating against the graduates by not employing them, the company managements said they find the graduates not employable as they do not fit into the requirements of the jobs advertised.
Chamber of Commerce CEO Bandula B. Yapa speaking to the Sunday Times said that many executive jobs go a begging due to the lack of personnel.
He said that in the past he had interviewed thousands of local graduates and it was evident that 90 per cent of them do not fit into the jobs advertised.
The main reasons he said were that they lacked competence, skills and the right attitude for the jobs.
He attributed the state of affairs to the education system that provides only theoretical knowledge to students. Explaining, he said that knowledge and employment are not co-related and possession of knowledge only does not make a person employable.
Citing a recent interview to fill vacancies for engineers’ jobs he said he had found that the applicants had only a degree certificate and had not been involved in any extra curricular activities.
He said they lacked growth based knowledge and activities related to sports activities, languages and communication skills. He said that they all thought they qualify for the job as they had a degree certificate.
Mr. Yapa blames the education system for the present state of affairs. He said that too much focus is laid on passing exams than on acquiring skills to go out and work in society “Even at the university this is not considered and too much focus is kept on lectures and handing out degree certificates.
Teaching life skills or giving on-the-job training to students to face the job markets locally or abroad is lacking,” he said.
He said the youth also need to look outside the frame and develop their skills. The youth today get everything free from grade one to university including school books, bags and uniforms, with Mahapola funds for university students and everything is taken for granted and yet they ask for more.
“When questioned they say that they are entitled to the benefits as they are citizens,” he said adding, the sad part is eventually they are not employable.
Mr. Yapa said it is time the authorities look into the education system in the country and bring about sweeping changes in the curriculum in schools and at university level. He said there is a lacuna that has to be filled before the university students look for jobs.
It is therefore important that the universities work with the corporate sector to bring about the changes. He further emphasised the need to bring about a better rapport between the two sectors so that the universities turn out versatile and employable youth into society.
Mr. Yapa said to achieve this the graduates need to have on-the-job training for at least one year. He suggested that the universities give on-the-job training to undergraduates at least for a year before they leave the universities. In Western countries he said a university degree extends to four years with the last year allocated for apprenticeship.
“It is an investment that will provide skilled individuals,” he said.
Meanwhile the National Education Commission (NEC) responsible for recommending education policies for the nation countered the argument and blamed the private sector of not doing enough to accommodate graduates in their companies.
NEC Chairman Prof. Lakshman Jayatilake justified the graduates’ protest and said it is sad that they have to stage protests to get their ‘rights’.
He said the graduates are ‘the cream of the crop’ and said he could not see why they are not employable.
He said many graduates from national universities have undertaken challenging jobs and have excelled in them, adding that private companies should look at them as an example and employ such individuals.
Graduates have been left out because of the excessive demands of the private sector which expect too much from a graduate. “One has to crawl before one can walk,” he said. “First employ them and then coach them in the respective field. Then they will become competent,” he said.
He said the private sector has a social responsibility to give something in return to the public as they enjoy many concessions from the Government.
He called on the corporate sector to be more friendly towards young people. “The whole system need overhauling,” he said.
He disclosed that the NEC is in the process of preparing a higher education policy to change the system and that it will soon be presented to President Maithripala Sirisena.
Meanwhile the Combined Association of Unemployed Graduates said its sole focus was to secure a Government job.
Convener Dhammika Munasinghe said they are targeting public sector jobs as many of them come from the villages and cannot settle down in Colombo. He explained that such jobs offer more security, the working hours are more flexible and the job is pensionable.
He went on to say that the Government had promised to give them jobs in the public sector since last year but has reneged on its promise and said that the Government could fill the 32,000 vacancies in the State sector with the 25,000 unemployed graduates.
Most of the graduates are in their late twenties with some even over thirty. Meanwhile M. Thilipan, a graduate from the South Eastern University, representing the graduates in the Ampara District, said his union has around 2,000 graduates and they are seeking public sector jobs closer home.
He said that many of them do not want to leave their homes and work in Colombo and have not sought jobs in the private sector.
More than 100 grads in N-E over 35 Meanwhile the Unemployed Graduates’ Association said there are over a hundred unemployed graduates in the Northern and Eastern Provinces who are over 35.

The graduates said that the delay in completing their degrees was because of the war with the universities in the region being closed most of the time.

According to regulations the public sector does not grant appointments to persons over 35.
However it is learnt that the Government has promised to present a special Cabinet Paper to accommodate such persons when granting employment to unemployed graduates.

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