How graduates can beat the glut
THE golden ticket to a good job here, in time to come, will no longer come solely in the form of a degree.
As reported by My Paper, Singapore could face a graduate glut - with 40 per cent of the cohort likely to participate in local universities by 2020. This could hit starting pay.
But to get ahead despite this competition, experts said would-be degree holders should stop their obsession with starting pay. They should focus, instead, on getting the right degree and on gaining work experience.
"Graduates need to realise that, while education is an important factor when entering the workforce, there is no substitute for hands-on experience," noted Chris Mead, regional director of Hays in Singapore and Malaysia
Such experience, he said, can be gained by taking on internships to "gain new skills and practical experience" during school breaks, or going into entry-level roles.
Jaya Dass, associate director of Randstad Singapore, added that local graduates should look beyond starting pay when looking for a job.
"For many Singaporean graduates, the focus tends to be on what employers can offer them, rather than how they are able to contribute to the marketplace or economy."
This mindset may put them at a disadvantage when it comes to getting job opportunities, she explained, especially with foreign graduates in the job market who "see the glass as half full" - a very attractive quality for employers.
"If (local graduates) compromise on salary or starting level in order to get into the right role, field, industry or function, their growth will definitely be quicker in the long run."
All the same, experts pointed out that certain sectors will face a "chronic shortage of talent" even in the event of a graduate glut - a situation that spells opportunity for graduates.
These sectors include information technology, construction, engineering, food and beverage, as well as hospitality. Up-and-coming ones include industries such as aerospace and biotechnology.
To prepare graduates for the evolving demands of the future economy, many tertiary institutions have added multidisciplinary programmes, such as those that marry engineering with business studies or life sciences, noted Mark Hall, vice-president and country manager of Kelly Services.
"These hybrid courses ensure that graduates can meet the demands of certain sectors moving forward, and that Singapore does not suffer from a brain-dead situation."
SIM University's Randolph Tan said: "If we have a stronger connection between evolving trends in industry workforce needs and university course development, way before a large wave of graduates trained in any specific field hits the job market, then the dangers of a glut could be moderated."
In a statement last month, the Ministry of Manpower highlighted the need for degree holders here to "gain both hard and soft skills to take on (quality) jobs".
Employers, for their part, should introduce more internship programmes to help graduates transit smoothly to full-time positions, said Koh Juan Kiat, executive director of the Singapore National Employers Federation.
On whether it would be difficult for Singapore's job market to absorb the projected 40 per cent of the cohort placed in universities come 2020, labour economist Shandre Thangavelu said it "might not be that serious an issue".
"In 2020 and beyond, we'll be looking at a regional, even global job market," he explained.
"What we should think about is equipping our graduates with portable skills, and gearing them up to be mobile workers who can go anywhere (in the world) to take up jobs."