TL;DR – Time to realise that there are other paths to success.
It’s that time of the year where some youths celebrate the end of their university education. It should be a happy moment. But it will also be a stressful period for many. It marks the start of their job search. Given that the economy isn’t roaring like it used to be, some may find their job search to be more challenging than they expect. As such, many of the fresh graduates would have to lower their expectations.
Last year saw the worst total annual employment growth since 2003. This year isn’t looking much better. There are some bright spots, like in finance and insurance, infocomms and media, healthcare, professional services, and wholesale trade. But hiring remains cautious in industries such as construction and marine.
That’s why this year’s graduates may find it tougher to get jobs compared to their seniors. And their seniors already had it tough. Joint survey data released in February by the National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Singapore Management University (SMU) showed a smaller proportion of last year’s graduates securing permanent full-time jobs within six months of graduation — 80.2 per cent, compared to 83.1 per cent in 2015. That is the lowest since the survey was first carried out for the 2012 cohort, of which 85.6 per cent landed permanent full-time jobs.
And that’s talking about landing a job.
Anecdotally, many graduates find it difficult to land their ideal job. As such, many new graduates are lowering their expectations. Many university graduates end up getting jobs that meant for diploma holders, such as technician or draftsman roles.
Keeping an open mind
The changes in the job market is one reason why NUS’ Centre for Future-ready Graduates’ director Crystal Lim Leahy has suggested that youth should forget about finding jobs that are aligned with their “passion”.
Instead, she suggested that the youth should develop a diverse portfolio of skills and experiences. They should also develop emotional awareness. Lastly, they need to develop a growth mindset.
This would enable youths to seize each learning opportunity they are given and every career progression prospect they get. That would also allow youths to stay nimble and adaptable even as the economy continues to transform.
And be prepared for economic transformation
And the economy will certainly transform. Because the government is set on implementing the Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs). Such transformation may be disruptive and uncomfortable at the start, but it will be good for Singapore in the long run. It will lead to greater productivity, and a leaner manpower. In turn, that will translate to better jobs and better pay for Singaporeans.
To help Singaporeans cope with and benefit from the changes brought on by the ITMs, the government and the labour movement should work together to help workers, young and old, up-skill and re-skill. This economic transformation, challenging and painful though the process may be, will hopefully benefit Singaporeans in the long term.