Graduate employability matters more than ever | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 14, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:25 AM, July 14, 2020

Graduate employability matters more than ever

Universities in Bangladesh, especially the private ones, have been quite proactive in their efforts to enrol students in online classes after the University Grants Commission of Bangladesh (UGC) cleared the way for virtual admissions and education platforms.

Enrolment in digital courses was also accelerated after Education Minister Dipu Moni declared that online classes would continue for a while even after the pandemic ends.

Even now, however, most universities, both private and public, would engage in promotional activities rather than discussing their graduates' employability.

It is common in developed countries and even in emerging nations like China, Brazil, Malaysia, Turkey and Vietnam that higher educational institutes promote themselves to potential students by promising possible employment by alumni.

Most countries normally concentrate on ensuring fundamental knowledge among the students at the secondary and higher secondary levels.

However, almost all universities across the globe face pressure from their respective governments and management to create syllabuses, modules, lectures and even practical sessions in a way that prepare students for employment and possibly entrepreneurship.

The demand for skilled graduates has risen significantly due to the recent surge in global unemployment brought on by the coronavirus fallout.

With 37 per cent of the country's male graduates and 43 per cent of the female graduates already being registered as unemployed, the ongoing pandemic could drastically increase the number.

Many universities, policymakers and even academics often blame the country's lack of job opportunities, slow economic growth, government policies, political instability and so on for the high unemployment rate among the graduates.

However, making these excuses is not fair as employment is no longer restricted to physical work at offices but is now widely computerised.

Considering these changes in the society, a graduate's ability to adjust their skills and knowledge and explorative nature should be examined.

Most graduates are in the dark about the recent technological revolutions such as Industry 4.0, internet of things (IoT), cloud management, blockchain and their implications in the present and future era.

As a result, many graduates remain unemployed for several years and in some cases even end up migrating to different countries for odd jobs.

Many employed graduates are also losing jobs because of low productivity and incapability to adjust to the unexpected changes to the work environment brought on by Covid-19.

The realistic achievement from digital development over the last decades has not reflected much on the graduates.

Therefore, universities can't deny that they had a hand in producing unproductive graduates.

Universities in Bangladesh must accept their failure to provide students with appropriate tech-based knowledge by adjusting and developing syllabus and lectures.

Producing graduates with contemporary knowledge and skills, especially tech-oriented proficiency, is inevitable for the current and post-pandemic era.

This is because many national and multinational companies are going or bound to go online and are duly making the working processes more flexible so that any unpredictable situation in the future can be managed and overcome to meet the changed demands of consumers.

Also, companies are being urged to make their operations environmentally sustainable. So, going digital would reduce carbon emissions and pollution in populous cities like Dhaka.

Many industries are about to go digital, directly or indirectly, forcing everyone on the planet to be skilled with digital knowledge.

Microsoft is going to permanently close its retail stores while Twitter already allowed its staff to work from home permanently.

Many companies in Bangladesh are also considering whether to allow employees to stay home and work remotely.

The advancement of click and mortar business model is already under revolution in every country, eradicating the bricks and mortar type of businesses.

In response to drastic changes to economies due to the coronavirus pandemic, developed and emerging nations are concentrating on preparing their workforce with technological and sustainability knowledge and skills.

In this regard, their universities have been playing a significant role in preparing students with the skills and attitude required for a proper career amid a changing work environment.

Those countries, as well as their universities, are enjoying the advantage of skilled graduates. Malaysia is going to develop a pool of 10,000 green entrepreneurs within next two years in line with the sustainable development goals as well as economic aspirations of the country.

Most universities in Malaysia are continuously developing syllabus, teaching materials, modules and lecturers to ensure students get the right and contemporary knowledge and skills.

As a result, graduate unemployment accounted for only 8.4 per cent in Malaysia.

This could also be a result of the country's open education industry, where local and international universities are competing with each other to recruit students based on employability and entrepreneurship development rates.

The scenario is almost similar in the case of Vietnam, another emerging Asian country, where universities have been developing educational operations, modules and lecturers according to the needs of now and the future.

Universities in Vietnam have to promote themselves by highlighting their graduates' employability and entrepreneurship rates rather than merely promoting themselves for recruitment while keeping the students in the dark about their future, much like the universities in Bangladesh.

The higher education industry should be opened for foreign renowned universities that would create a competitive environment, which would act as a tonic for local universities to bring in improvements.

Universities should also provide continuous training to every faculty member, so they understand what is going on around the world to give updated knowledge to students.

Both public and private universities should have industry collaboration, not only with the national and multinational companies, but also with local small and micro enterprises.

It will contribute to a student's ability to achieve practical experience by showing them how situations in a work environment can change dramatically or slowly.

In turn, this will make them curious and adaptive to learning new methods to ensure employability after graduation.

Otherwise, graduates will not be able to get a job and will not be able to retain the job after joining. At the same time, they might not be creative enough to be an entrepreneur with their theoretical knowledge gained from universities.

Many employed graduates are losing jobs due to a lack of technological and contemporary knowledge and skills as well as poor adaptive ability.

Hence, if students are not given the right education according to the demand of the current and forthcoming job market, an unemployment pandemic will start and remain over years in our country.

Md Asadul Islam is a lecturer at Swinburne University of Technology (Sarawak Campus) and Abu Naser Mohammad Saif is an assistant professor at Dhaka University.

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