Producing ‘in-demand’ talents

THE role of a university is no longer confined to research and teaching.

In a competitive, ever-changing world where graduates are expected to be dynamic changemakers and innovators, higher education institutions (HEIs) are expected to not only guide youths onto their chosen career paths, but also to provide them with personal growth opportunities and work experience by exposing them to the working world.

Increasingly, HEIs are moulding their students into global citizens and solution providers by helping their young charges gain internships, and even full time jobs, through their networking and links to the industry.ParmjitParmjit

Indeed, it is very important that universities place strong emphasis on producing “highly employable graduates”, Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and Universities (Mapcu) president Datuk Dr Parmjit Singh opined.

This means ensuring that students develop their core competencies in the chosen field of study, and imbibe and demonstrate attributes that would enable them to stand out from the rest in an increasingly competitive employment market, he told StarEdu.

“It is reasonable for employers to expect universities to fulfil their talent needs by producing graduates who are ready to hit the ground running and contribute towards the success of the organisation.

“And, it is the dream and aspiration of any university student to attain a qualification that would place them in the best possible position to gain meaningful employment in their career of choice.”

Such an aspiration is also shared by their parents and sponsors, he noted.

Parmjit, who is also Asia Pacific University of Technology & Innovation (APU) chief executive officer, said employment prospects figure very strongly in their pre-enrolment counselling processes.

“In this regard, APU has consistently achieved 100% or close to 100% employment for our graduates based on official tracer studies,” he added.Prof YeongProf Yeong

He said the varsity has always focused on employability as a core component of its vision and DNA.

“This is supported by an ecosystem that starts with curricula that are designed to be highly robust and constantly current as well as a focus on developing students’ ability to apply theory to practice.

“We consider the responsibility of developing student employability as our primary reason for existence and an integral factor towards ensuring the continued success of the institution,” he said.

Agreeing with Parmjit, UCSI University deputy vice-chancellor (Student Affairs and Alumni) Prof Dr Yeong Siew Wei said it is a university’s responsibility to provide an education that will improve the chances of its students to achieve success in life.

“Graduate outcomes have never been more crucial in today’s ultra-competitive world. And if the pandemic has taught us anything, the key takeaway is that we must be ready for change,” she said.

While students are increasingly focused on the outcomes of the education they’ll receive, she said it is important to understand what is meant by ‘employability’.

“Employability is multi-faceted and it is no longer limited to one’s ability to secure work. It’s not just about landing good jobs anymore – it’s about charting great careers,” she said, adding that prospective students and their parents, often ask about the varsity’s graduate employability rankings.

“They ask us about graduate outcomes and the success of our alumni like the Forbes 30 Under 30 inductees and the students who successfully launched their own startups.

“Subject rankings also motivate their decision. For example, most students who want to pursue classical or contemporary music would select UCSI by virtue of it being one of the world’s top 20 universities for performing arts,” she added.Prof MushtakProf Mushtak

Universities, she said, need to have a dynamic learning environment in place from the get go to facilitate the provision of university-industry initiatives.

“These initiatives include, but are not limited to, internship and apprenticeship programmes; incubators and accelerators on campus; thought leadership lectures featuring CEOs and successful alumni; access to angel investors; career fairs; support for entrepreneurial activity and community engagement opportunities.”

Employability, and the reputation and ranking of a varsity, are intertwined. Employers want candidates from reputable institutions.

This can be seen in tracer studies such as Talentbank’s Graduate Employability Survey, which named Heriot-Watt University Malaysia (HWUM) as one of its ‘Preferred Universities’ in the recent National Graduate Employability Index.

HWUM provost and chief executive officer Prof Mushtak Al-Atabi said some 95% of their graduates find employment or continue their education within six months of graduation.IskandarIskandar

“We’re proud to be recognised by Talentbank and the nation’s top graduate employers’ as a preferred university for future-ready graduates.

“Not only does it reaffirm our decade of impact in Malaysia, but it also reaffirms our commitment to continue delivering world-class programmes with a global outlook to prepare today’s youth with skills needed by the world’s economic drivers,” he said in a press release on Sept 7.

Universiti Malaya (UM) Graduate Employability and Career Centre director Dr Iskandar Abdullah said labour market information is highly relevant for post-secondary educational choices.

“It generally ranks among the ‘top five’ in higher education study choices beside information about the quality of teaching and learning, student supports, social activities and life on campus,” he said, adding that the decision to choose the best HEI through employment prospects is crucial.

Ask yourself which HEI can offer the latest syllabus that suits the future labour market, he suggested.Syed HussainSyed Hussain

Industries across the board see the benefit of hiring from better-ranked universities.

Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) president Datuk Dr Syed Hussain Syed Husman said graduates from top ranked universities generally earn more due to their quality education and training.

This, he said, is no surprise as the entry requirements to these ivory universities are tighter — it is difficult to get into good HEIs.

“If you graduate from these universities, your chance of employment in top companies are much better and you would command a higher salary,” he said.

He added that graduates from institutions with good rankings also tend to be more vocal, extroverted, willing to take on challenges, focused and results driven.

They also do not require much hand holding, which makes it easier for bosses.

The Views: Getting hired

The employment rate of a university’s graduates is important when it comes to choosing where to study. Not all universities are equal in that respect. Some have better industrial links and lecturers which help us students gain more real world experience that will prove useful when we graduate.

Some companies choose to hire people from certain, more reputable, institutions compared to others. This shows that a university’s rankings and its employment track record are important not just to students, but to the industry as well. But as for me, I chose a course that I know that I can excel in and one that I am passionate about.

I do not want to sign up for a course that I’m not interested in just because the employment rate is high. I would rather do something I know I will enjoy.

- Marie Ashley Andrew, 19

The reputation of a university represents the quality of its graduates. Employability matters when choosing courses.

We want to know if the programme we are signing up for is relevant to what the world needs. We need to be realistic when deciding on the course to study because that’s what will determine whether or not we get hired.”

- Nurul Fariesya Praya, 23

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