GRADUATE EMPLOYABILITY: While universities are filled with young hopefuls who are eager to join the rat race and climb the corporate ladder, thousands quickly realise that nothing in life comes easy, especially a successful career. Field experts explain that a poor command of English, lack of confidence and unrealistic expectations are some of the main job busters. However, all is not lost for young adults, who can easily get help, learns Audrey Vijaindren
ANITA Sude was jobless for more than a year after graduation. During this period, she harvested sago with her father in the jungles of Sarawak.
They used to earn a measly RM5 to RM7 for every 0.5m of sago trunk. They had to carry the trunks to the market. Anita could carry only one trunk, while her father could carry two at the most.
Their income was too small for the back-breaking work they had to do. Yet, it was the only source of income for the family.
"I graduated with a degree in Marine Biology from Universiti Malaysia Terengganu and, yet, I could not find a job for more than a year.
"I felt pressured because I am the only graduate among my seven siblings. My family expected me to get a good job immediately after graduation," says the 27-year-old Melanau.
All that changed the day Anita found out about Skim Latihan 1Malaysia (SL1M).
Anita Sude landed an administration executive position after completing an eight-month stint under SL1M.
"I applied online, but did not have much hope until, one day, I was called for an interview.
"I had to persuade my mother to let me go. She did not want me to travel far because she thought it was not worthwhile. She wanted me to settle for a job in Sarawak."
Eight months later, Anita graduated from SL1M.
SL1M secretariat head Norashikin Ismail says few firms are willing to hire graduates who cannot take criticism
"Today, I am an administration executive for a company that supplies and installs audio-visual and information technology equipment. I am really happy with my life now. My parents have accepted my decision to work in Kuala Lumpur and, yes, I can support them financially."
SL1M secretariat head Norashikin Ismail says many young adults still do not have the confidence or right attitude to enter the job market, even after graduation.
Sudhev Sreetharan says Setia Haruman feels it is socially responsible to help solve Cyberjaya’s talent requirement problem
"We are here to help them, but fresh graduates need to help themselves first. Unfortunately, how can they do so, if they do not know what they lack?
"They need to have the right attitude and must get out of their comfort zones."
SL1M is part of a corporate social responsibility programme under the Economic Planning Unit, aimed at giving back to society. It focuses on helping underprivileged graduates enter the job market through internships and attachments.
Imran Kunalan says a more intensive English course at the tertiary level of education
is useful and must be coupled with continuous practice
The programme was launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak on June 1, 2011, as part of efforts to increase graduate employability. SL1M 2012 is a continuation of the initiative.
During the attachment period of between eight and 12 months, participants receive an allowance of at least RM1,000 each, which will be paid directly by the companies involved in the training scheme.
Vimleswary Sivasubmaniam works in Shell’s Human Resources Department
Participants are required to undergo at least two months of soft-skills training and six months of on-the-job training with the companies. They will be assisted by the companies to land jobs before the end of their stints in the programme.
In two years, 42,000 of the programme's graduates have landed jobs.
Norashikin says many graduates have personality issues and problems holding conversations in English.
"Most of them are introverts, who are extremely shy and reserved. There are also those who are quite shallow. They are able to read, memorise and regurgitate. But, when you mix things up, they are unable to connect the dots.
"The most problematic issue is that they are afraid to converse in English. They may have good qualifications on paper, but they are afraid of speaking in English for fear of making mistakes.
"Most of them come from different levels in society. If they hail from a state with a particular dialect, they are even more intimidated. Some get mocked by their friends if they speak in English."
Unfortunately, not all attachments have yielded positive results. Some of the feedback that Norashikin has received from companies include unrealistic job expectations and attitude problems.
"It is not easy dealing with Gen Y employees because when their superiors at work correct them, they throw in the towel. If they are unhappy with the smallest things, they just up and leave after a few months. They think the world revolves around them.
"They think: 'I am a graduate, so I need to be treated a certain way. Do not ask me to photocopy or fax things, stay a minute later at work or do anything that is not specified in my job description.'
"Recently, we arranged for some SL1M candidates to have interviews at a public-listed company. Although they were for executive positions, the newbies would be required to work in shifts.
"Out of 3,000 candidates, only 30 showed up for the interviews. And, after hearing the job description, only a handful accepted the positions. It is a crime to not get a job in Malaysia and, yet, thousands are unemployed.
"There are 130,000 graduates who want to join SL1M. While we would like to help all of them, the reality is that there are limited companies willing to take them. Our hope is that companies realise that by taking in SL1M graduates, they are giving back to society.
"You may need to change their mindset and groom them, but these graduates are rare gems, especially those from rural areas. Despite their circumstances, they got themselves into universities."
So far, there are 120 government-linked and private companies involved with SL1M.
"We are only a team of 12, with barely any facilities or budget. If we can find jobs for 42,000 graduates in two years, I am sure others can do this and much more.
"Besides the double tax deduction, some companies will be able to join SL1M through the Human Resource Development Fund (HRDF)-SL1M scheme. This enables the companies to utilise the HRDF levy to train SL1M graduates as future workers."
Norashikin says the ultimate goal is for companies to equip the graduates with five work skills.
"The first is mastering communication, be it in English, Bahasa Malaysia, presentation or public speaking. Second is problem solving, and creative and analytical thinking. It is time for them to think out of the box.
"Organisational adaptability is the third area to focus on. Fourth, they should be value-driven professionals, so if they are checked on by the 'dragon lady' in the office, they should take it as a challenge to prove that they can do better. The fifth skill includes proper grooming and etiquette."
She says it is time to stop raising a "strawberry generation" that is easily bruised.
"We do not want graduates who have to be taught everything. Most companies are willing to hire graduates who are not experts in their field, but few establishments want to deal with employees who cannot take criticism."
Making career dreams come true
VIMLESWARY Sivasubmaniam, 27, had only one dream: to work for an oil and gas company. Her father used to be a driver, but kept cows for their milk to supplement the family's income.
"Every day, we had customers who came to our house to buy fresh milk. Though I did not help with the milking, I cleaned the cowsheds."
After graduating with a business administration degree, she applied for a graduate programme.
Of the 8,000 applicants, only 200 were selected for training, which was sponsored by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM). Vimleswary was one of the lucky few.
Like the other trainees, she cried upon learning that the training was hard, starting from 6am and finishing at midnight. Yet, it turned out to be the best time of her life, as she is now proudly working in Shell's Human Resources Department.
Ong Chin Eng, 26, is the son of a rubber tapper. Growing up in Tangkak, Johor, he went along as a youngster to collect rubber during the school holidays.
Ong and his parents tapped trees and collected rubber from 7am to 10am. They would be bitten by mosquitoes and ants.
Like many poor folk, his family knew that education was the way out of poverty.
"My parents encouraged us to study hard. But, I feel that luck also played a big part in me getting a place in university. I am the only university graduate in my family."
After graduation, he was jobless for more than two months. But, his friend saw an advertisement for a graduate employability programme and encouraged him to apply.
Ong was recruited for the BNM programme, which turned into Skim Latihan 1Malaysia. Upon completing the programme, he was hired as an information technology officer at a reputable company.
Audrey Vijaindren NST Nation General The-rise-of-jobless-graduates-1.586514 04 May 2014