AFTER 30 interviews Narasimhaa Naidu Loganathan, 25, decided to try his luck with the Electrical & Electronics (E&E) Productivity Nexus (EEPN) training.
Still unemployed a year after graduating, he got an offer at his first interview after completing the programme.
“The training was wonderful and very relevant to the semiconductor and manufacturing industry. I was surprised that many of these courses were not taught at varsity.
“I got hands-on experience using the latest tools and learned at my own pace. Most valuable were the personal development courses because it made me understand the role of employees, and negotiation, time management, and people skills.”
He wasn’t the only one who struggled to get his foot in the door. For every 10 of his course mates, and friends who are in engineering, three are either unemployed, working in a different sector, or continuing their studies.
“One’s currently running an events planning business after failing to get a job after graduation. He was interviewed for many different positions but failed to get an offer. It’s alarming.”
He thinks it’s because the syllabus is from a decade ago, and basic workplace skills, are left out. The industry, he said, has grown rapidly but students are learning about things that are obsolete and of minimal value in the real world.
Our engineering syllabus needs a revamp, he feels.
He said people skills and common workplace skills must be made compulsory pass subjects.
“We need a syllabus that’s in line with today’s manufacturing industry needs. Public and private varsities must be Government-monitored so that the syllabus in standardised, and relevant.
“It’s pointless teaching different syllabus in different universities with different quantifiable requirements,” he said.
And, the industry, he said, must give fresh grads a chance to learn and improve.
“It doesn’t make sense to ask for work experience without giving us a chance to gain it.”
Sitti Halizah Salman, 25, said it was hard getting hired because most companies prefer experience.
Describing the EEPN training as helpful, she said coaching by experienced industry experts exposed trainees to the outside world.
“There’s also a platform and interview opportunities for trainees to make sure we get hired after the session ends. I hope the programme is continued.”
The reason many engineering grads aren’t doing what they studied is because they lack engineering and soft skill training that’s crucial for the job.
“But some are choosy. Others are reluctant to challenge themselves or accept jobs that are far away from home. Then again, some employers offer a small salary yet they expect so much in return. A friend became an entrepreneur because the money was much better than being an engineer.”
She advises fresh grads to identify the skills required in a position they’re eyeing.
“List your strengths. See if you’re really up for it. This could determine whether you get through the interview.”
Putting in the effort to understand the job position and expertise needed are crucial, she said. The most important thing is attitude. There are limited vacancies so graduates must work hard to compete for a job.
To ensure graduate employability, varsities must improve and align their programmes with the latest technology and employer needs.
Closer collaborations between academia and industry can increase the chances of graduate employability, she thinks. Resume-writing workshops and mock-interview sessions, are valuable too. Internships especially during the last semester would mean that the student can continue on with the company right after graduating, she suggests.
“We have to ask corporations what they want and what they don’t want so that we can change and improve ourselves.”
Megat Hazman Danish Mohd Ghazalli, 26, sees the EEPN training as adding value to his degree.
“In university, we learn the fundamentals of engineering. We grow as students, but not as workers. This training gave us a idea of what to expect. In one of the sessions, we were taught on how to manage memory, websites and server, from an experienced freelancer. This knowledge can be used to jump start a business if we still aren’t able to get employed,” he said, adding that students can’t predict the needs of the industry so it’s the responsibility of learning institutions to expose and prepare them for the job market.
“Some grads rely on web ads to get jobs - which isn’t enough. It gets tougher when all the vacancies are for experienced engineers.”
For Nurnisa Amirah Mohd Zaini, 25, the EEPN training was a “golden opportunity” to use electronic design automation tools like Synopsis Design Compiler, IC Compiler, and Prime Time.
“I’d never used these before.”
Varsities should offer courses that are industry-related and those that are able to develop soft skills, she said. Many of her engineer friends are now struggling to get a job.
“It’s hard for fresh grads because the competition’s tough. To survive, they do business or whatever it takes to survive. Some move to Singapore where the pay’s higher.”
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