PETALING JAYA: A degree used to be the golden ticket to employment, but this is no longer the case with hundreds of thousands of graduates produced every year.
The low entry requirements and competitive fees set by most of the 661 higher education institutions nationwide have allowed many more Malaysians to arm themselves with a degree.
There were more than 400,000 Malaysian jobless graduates last year, a number which former Universiti Malaya vice-chancellor Prof Ghauth Jasmon said in an FMT report, was set to rise higher in the next few years.
This is a matter of concern to the nation, especially as according to a book published by the higher education ministry, “Soaring Upwards: Malaysian Higher Education 2015/2016”, there are over 1.253 million students enrolled in the 661 institutions.
While the government is trying to make sure all graduates find jobs within six months after graduation, the students themselves have to take the initiative to become more marketable, said industry experts.
Jobstreet’s Country Manager Chook Yuh Yng said while a degree can help open the door for job interviews, it might not be enough to help graduates secure the job.
This is because a degree, today, is seen only as a qualification which showed that the graduate had gained expertise in the subjects they studied, she said.
“Don’t think a degree is your passport to getting a job. It is just an entry point for the graduates to qualify for some jobs, but a degree alone doesn’t guarantee you will secure the job.”
The same was said by P Kumanan, a business development manager at an international recruitment agency.
He said not all degrees have value in the job market and in fact, only fewer than 20% of the degrees are actually valued highly.
And at times, experience trumps paper qualifications, he added.
“It also depends on where they get their degree,” said Kumanan.
So what do future graduates need to do to ensure that once they leave their institutions, they won’t become part of the statistics on jobless graduates?
According to both Chook and Kumanan, the most optimum situation is of course, the combination of paper qualifications, experience, and language proficiency.
“Although we think there is a lot of universities, there is still a shortage of talents. For example, the market needs a lot of Chinese speakers, but there is a limited number of them,” said Kumanan.
“The level of English proficiency that is being taught in the universities, especially local universities, is not to the expectation of the market.
“So it’s important for the students to decide what the job market has to offer four years later, rather than just getting into anything that can qualify them easily.”
Chook echoed the same remark, saying that tertiary students should aim to make themselves as appealing as possible for when they enter the job market.
She stressed the importance of internship during studies, as this would tick the experience box on the prospective employee’s resume.
“It depends on how fresh graduates can position themselves for the jobs they are hoping to get. They must remember that for any job, they are not the only person applying for it.
“There is competition from their peers and maybe even from people with a little bit of experience. And maybe their competitors are even willing to get a lower salary.
“That is why it is important for them to position themselves well. They need to show that they are better than the other candidates in terms of knowledge, and internship experiences.”
Chook said internship experiences can also show employers that the candidate has most of the sought after soft-skills, such as the ability to be a good team player and to solve problems.