The latest Polytechnic Graduate Employment Survey was released last week (12 January) and it revealed that fresh polytechnic graduates found it harder to get jobs last year amid a reduction in hiring caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The survey, which was conducted by the five polytechnics in Singapore, found that 87.4 percent of graduates managed to secure permanent, freelance or part-time jobs within six months upon graduation last year – down from 90.7 percent in the previous year and 89.5 percent in 2018.
Detailing the findings, the report also noted that 52 percent of graduates had full-time jobs, a drop from 61.1 percent in 2019.
As for the proportion of polytechnic graduate who were unemployed, the percentage increased to 12.6 percent last year, compared to 9.3 percent in 2019 and 10.5 percent in 2018.
Responding to the survey’s results, Low Boon Seong, founder and director of Align Group, a HR consulting firm operating within Asia — told TOC that he is not surprised with the findings given that the overall unemployment rate in the country has gone up.
He also noted that the ongoing pandemic is leading to firms hiring only the right people as they need garner immediate results.
As such, companies don’t have the luxury of time and resources to train fresh graduates with skills relevant to the industry.
“With the current pandemic ongoing, companies’ cash flow is tight and hence hiring the right people to deliver immediate results becomes increasingly important. These companies have little time and resources to train their fresh grads and get them up to speed,” Mr Lim said.
He added, “Although we can argue that poly trains their students with hands-on skills relevant to the industry, they are still at a disadvantage when it comes to competing with individuals who have already build up a track record of results.”
When asked what these poly graduates can do to upgrade themselves to be more employable, Mr Low suggested that they make full use of available resources such as career guidance at their institutes as well as Career Matching Services by WSG’s Careers Connect and NTUC’s e21 centres.
He also went on to point out that most companies that the firm works with look at experiences and work ethics, recommending new graduates to take up internships.
“However, it should not just be any internship but one that allows them to hone their technical skills and softs skills such as critical thinking and communication.
“If they land up with internships that focus only on basic administrative duties, then they would need to take initiative and be curious about what their colleagues are doing, offer help and absorb as many learnings as possible,” he added.
Employers should honestly explain job duties to find the right match
As for employers who want to find the right match for their company, Mr Low asserted that there are a number of points they have to bear in mind.
The first is to communicate the company’s mission as it is crucial for them to hire someone who has the same purpose as the organisation.
“You want people who have the same purpose as your company. That way, they remain highly engaged as they see meaning in their work. For this to happen, employers must first shout about their company’s mission on their website, on job portals, and during interviews. This also helps to filter out talents who are not interested in what your company is doing,” he explained.
If that’s not all, it is also important for companies to be transparent and share honestly the jobs’ roles and duties, as well as about the company itself to the candidates, Mr Low said.
As an example, he said that bosses should be very clear and open to every potential hire on the “performance expectations, work environment, company policies, leadership style, and any other topics where surprises need to be minimised”.
By doing so, employer can gauge if a talent would stay long enough upon hiring.
Another point to note is that employers should ask questions pertaining to culture fit.
“Culture fit assessments help employers uncover what the talents find most important to have at the workplace and see how it compares to the company. For example, if the talent prefers innovating and risk-taking and the company encourages such behaviours, then that is a good fit. Be sure to assess more than one aspect of your company’s culture to know the overall fit!” he noted.
When asked on the industries that future poly students can consider enrolling in order to ensure they stay in demand upon graduation, Mr Low said that what is important is to pick a course that the students are “genuinely interested” and not so much on which course would be important for the market.