Money Matters

The young and the jobless

By Majyd Aziz
Mon, 06, 24

The Employers Federation of Pakistan routinely receives resumes of graduates and even older persons who need employment in progressive companies. The concerned office person just forwards it to members. Whether these applicants get placed or not has rarely been taken notice of by the office.

The young and the jobless

The Employers Federation of Pakistan routinely receives resumes of graduates and even older persons who need employment in progressive companies. The concerned office person just forwards it to members. Whether these applicants get placed or not has rarely been taken notice of by the office.

What is more disturbing, however, is the fact that the situation is alarming. Although corporations and service providers are always on the lookout for more graduates, the supply exceeds the demand.

These days, the primary qualification in any resume is whether the applicant is well-versed in information technology. It matters a lot because technology in any organization is open and used by employees as well as those who deal with these organizations. The service economy in Pakistan is becoming increasingly prominent, and technology-literate employees are essential if they have to work sitting behind their desks. The service sector has become different from previous times because service has to be delivered by the people for the people. These ‘plain graduates’ will find favourable placement only if they are intelligent, presentable, properly and clearly understand and comply with instructions.

It is incumbent upon academic institutions to inculcate communication skills, soft skills, and people-related skills. Employment in customer-facing businesses places much emphasis on the verbal, linguistic and cognitive ability of those they employ. In other words, what is imperative is not brilliance or scientific knowledge so much as the ability to understand quickly, convey meaning simply, and clearly speak one's mind when needed. It is also important for graduates to have the capacity to think independently and critically, to know what questions to ask, to research a solution, and apply one's mind pragmatically. Alas, the academic ecosystem does not encourage or ingrain the exercise of this skill set in the students.

Looking back, general essays, compositions, or classroom debates were common features in educational institutions. Students were usually not responsive to these exercises, but these were focused precisely on the very skills now found so sorely lacking in college graduates.

Those employers or HR professionals who interview and hire graduates complain that raw graduates are like half-ripe fruit, and grooming or mentoring them involves time and expenditure. They do understand that there is obviously a disparity between expectation and actual situation and that they realize it will be addressed gradually, and they are experienced enough to accept that it is too simplistic to comprehend that just an educational qualification has developed the graduate.

A lamentable concern of employers is the Jumping Jack syndrome. Gone are the days when employees would make their lifelong careers in one organization. The graduate of today is restless and carries a chip on their shoulder. The hunger and desire to keep searching for better prospects all the time while they are being developed and trained at their place of work precludes any sense of loyalty to the organization.

Although many graduates do find work where they may be more comfortable, the bare fact is that most of them usually become drifters in the corporate world rather than being anchors steadying the ship of their careers. This is one key factor why there may not be much perceptible improvement in the employability of graduates.

Academia has to make a paradigm shift in how they educate and train their students. Some years back, a study revealed that over 80 per cent of employers were not happy or comfortable with the products of our educational institutes. Something is still missing and needs to be taken head-on. The Higher Education Commission, employers’ organizations (EFP for example), and academia must seriously endeavour to bring about change. Just churning out mediocre graduates year after year and thinking that they have graduated geniuses is just wishful thinking.

Industry-academia linkages are now more relevant than ever. To ensure the importance of employer-demand graduates, educational institutions must forge stronger connections with industries to bridge the gap between imparting theoretical knowledge and instilling practical application. Academia must play a formidable role in setting up collaborative partnerships, facilitating internships, and encouraging industry-academia interactions that are critical in developing a modern curriculum that can equip students with the skills and knowledge to excel.

Every academic institution must establish a structured system of experiential learning for the students in their senior years. Although students have to intern in some organizations for a few weeks, the fact is that most of them are not taken seriously by the management and staff of these organizations. Experiential learning is the process of learning by doing. It enables students to obtain firsthand experiences and get acquainted with the real world.

Academia teaches theories, knowledge, and experiments that can be supplemented with real-life situations. The system surely empowers students to be bold and ready to dive into the industrial and corporate sectors after graduation. It is also imperative that even faculty be encouraged to be part of experiential learning because many of them lack exposure to the industrial and corporate sector ecosystem.

The UN Global Compact is also focusing on revising the Principles for Responsible Management Education by introducing six new principles. These principles underline developing the capabilities of students to be future generators of sustainable value for business; incorporating into academic activities, curricula, and organizational practices the values of global social responsibility; creating an educational framework of learning in an enlightened academic environment; and emphasizing learning through conceptual and empirical research to create sustainable social, environmental, and economic value.

They also envision the academia having a mutually beneficial interactive relationship with the private sector by fusing the critical mass of their knowledge with the experiences and capabilities of the business community to meet various challenges and responsibilities; and structuring dialogue as well as constructive debates on relevant issues.

The (UN) Global Compact Network Pakistan is coordinating with the academia to focus on these principles.

The writer is the former president of the Employers Federation of Pakistan.