TL;DR – For better or for worse?
Recently, the five polytechnics came together to conduct the annual graduate employment survey. This year, the data from the survey seems a little worrying. While the median monthly salary has increased for fresh polytechnic graduates, the employment rate for this group has dipped to an all-time low since data was first collected in 2005.
On closer look, things seem worse
86.4% of those who are fresh out of polytechnic and were working or actively seeking work had landed jobs within six months of graduating. This is a drop from 90.6% in 2016. From 2011 to 2015, the figure ranged between 88.9 per cent and 92.1 per cent.The rate was 89.8% for polytechnic graduates who entered the workforce after National Service (NS), which also dropped from 95.4% in 2016.
It might look worse when you look at the employment status of those who got jobs. For those that got jobs fresh out of polytechnic, only about five in 10 (52.8%) had full-time permanent jobs, while 30.9% are in part-time or temporary employment, some doing freelance work (2.8%). For those who entered the workforce after NS, 64% were in full-time permanent jobs, 17.7% were in part-time or temporary employment, and 8.1% were doing freelance work.
It’s not good when young people who want to work couldn’t get work. And even those who get work, it’s also not good if they are underemployed. So should we get worried?
But on even closer look, things might not be that bad?
It turns out that those who are in part time, temporary or freelance employment because they were pursuing further studies, or preparing to do so. That’s a good thing, right? Young people (actually, all of us) should be looking to improve themselves, equip themselves with better skills, and be better prepared for better jobs.
But if that’s the case, it brings up another question. About half of those fresh out of polytechnic and working are not in full-time employment. In contrast, about four out of ten who entered the workforce after NS (i.e. boys). Those fresh out of polytechnic and able to work are those who don’t have to do NS. They are probably girls.
If we believe that those who aren’t in full-time employment are looking to further their studies, does that mean that more girls out of polytechnic are looking to further their studies than boys? Is that something we should be worried about? Should we be concerned that boys, after polytechnic and NS, are less inclined to furthering their studies than girls?
Actually, we can’t really tell…
The survey, in its current form, doesn’t quite give us a full picture. It leaves many questions unanswered. It would be more useful if the polytechnics were able to follow up with the students a few years after graduation. Such a study can find out if the students actually went on to further their studies, and if they did, how far. It should also find out what jobs they eventually end up working in,and how much they are earning.
Unfortunately, that sort of survey is also difficult to do because it would be difficult to track down the graduates and get responses from them. That’s probably why the polytechnics aren’t doing that sort of a survey. Which is a pity. Because that sort of follow-up study would give a fuller picture of the quality of our polytechnic education as well as the health of economy. Ah well…