Are Fresh Graduates In Malaysia Really Career-Ready?
In a survey of employers conducted by Talentbank in 2020, we found that the majority of employers considered local fresh graduates to be not immediately ready to take on career challenges.
As you can see from the graph, most of the 196 respondents gave Malaysian college students a career readiness score of between 5 to 7 points. It would seem that the general perception among employers is that the career-readiness of Malaysian fresh graduates is not very high.
To be fair, this phenomenon is not limited to just Malaysian fresh graduates. A study entitled “Graduate work-readiness in the Asia-Pacific region”, which surveyed perceptions of employers and fresh graduates in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Australia, found that employers in all three countries generally perceived that fresh graduates were lacking in career-readiness. As such, they had difficulties hiring fresh graduates who had the expected combination of qualifications, skills and personal capabilities.
This perception is not new or surprising.
According to Malaysia’s Ministry of Education (MOE), of the over 290,000 fresh graduates that enter the employment market every year, almost 20% can’t find a job within six months after graduation. One of the main reasons is that many graduates lack the skills, knowledge and attitudes that employers look for.
Talentbank’s own survey found that 91.91% of employers would choose a good attitude over academic results.
The eight categories of skills that employers emphasise above academic qualifications identified by MOE are critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, teamwork, continuous learning, information technology, entrepreneurship, professional ethics, and morals. Other skills that have also been emphasised include leadership, career management, and intercultural interactions.
In reality, fresh graduates today are entering a much tougher market environment than ever before. This is because businesses in the 21st century are facing increasing volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. As such, there is a growing demand for fresh graduates who are already highly versatile, independent, and ready to jump into the deep end and take on tough challenges.
On the other hand, local graduates need to be aware of their career readiness. While university students tend to think they are ready for a job, employers may see it differently. Again, this issue is not limited to the Malaysian market.
In a major US survey involving over 4,200 graduating students and over 200 employers in the US, many students rated themselves as career-ready. However, a lower percentage of employers rated them as highly. This gap in perceptions covered many categories, such as professionalism, work ethic, critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication. Similar findings were seen in Malaysia, where employers’ expectations of career-readiness were higher than graduates’ expectations.
Clearly, colleges and universities in Malaysia have the challenge to raise career awareness among local graduates and ensure the career readiness standards of local graduates are able to meet market demands. Students also need to assess their own career readiness. They need to be aware that they need more than head knowledge for a successful career today and be prepared to cultivate the skills valued by employers.
Stakeholders have to work together to address the skills gap to make graduates more employable and reduce the mismatch between talent demand and supply.
Get in touch with Talentbank to explore collaboration opportunities to prepare the fresh graduates for the workforce.