Disclaimer: This article is directed mainly at readers who are pursuing a course in engineering, biotechnology, education and the like who are seeking employment in their respective fields.
A graduate simply means that the student has fulfilled all the requirements set by the university such that the student is equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to penetrate the job market. A graduate simply means that for all those years and money spent in getting the education, they want to see it as an excellent investment for a bright and successful future.
A fresh graduate is not there for you to belittle as liabilities. A fresh graduate is not there for you to ask what sort of pay they are expecting, only to open your eyes wide, as if recoiling in horror, when the fresh graduate says, “RM3000 per month.”
A fresh graduate can never be as experienced or skilled as people who have been in the market or the trade for five, ten or twenty years – be reasonable. But your company will also gradually die off if you do not have fresh graduates. People do die eventually, and you need to ensure that there are other people who can take the place of those who have passed on.
A fresh graduate does not ask for “RM3000 per month” without a reason. In places like Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru and Penang, RM3000 is not a lot of money. A fresh graduate cannot be thinking about buying a house or a car with just RM3000 per month of salary. Even renting a place to live would take away a significant chunk of the monthly income. People need to eat, people need money to move around (it’s not like companies will provide a car for the fresh graduate to drive to work anyway), people have student loans to cover, people need the extra cash for rainy days (medical purposes and so on). Is RM3000 really an unrealistic figure for a fresh graduate’s basic pay?
Arguably, not all fresh graduates are perfect beings. Not all fresh graduates are passionate about what they have learnt and what they want to do with their degree. Not all engineering graduates are doing engineering work, and certainly not all engineering graduates are first class graduates.
But all university graduates have gone through at least eleven years of primary and secondary school education. All university graduates have gone through at least a year of pre-university studies. All university graduates have gone through at least three or four years of undergraduate studies – all with the hopes that when they graduate, the market will look at them as potentially excellent workforce and assets to the companies.
All university graduates deserve credit for working their way up to the basic requirement of getting a job. All university graduates deserve not to be judged upon immediately as liabilities. The media should consider refraining from publishing articles that generalise fresh graduates as liabilities – they are not doing us justice because we can never have the right of reply (employers can always come up with excuses to refute a fresh graduate’s claims) and most importantly, because generalising fresh graduates as liabilities meant that even those excellent ones will be prematurely judged as liabilities. The job market is already competitive enough for a fresh graduate to penetrate without the media portraying them as liabilities.
So employers need to train fresh graduates before they can perform as well as their much senior counterparts. Is that something that companies find hard to swallow? In today’s job market, various companies are so diverse that it is impossible for universities to tailor courses in order to meet specific needs of companies. A civil engineering student, for example, is expected to master the knowledge of structures, water and wastewater engineering, fluid mechanics, highway engineering, soil engineering, etc. because the civil engineering field is so diverse and many companies are so specific about what their needs are. So many companies have businesses that deal with such specific areas of engineering that the student’s knowledge from university alone is insufficient. More often than not, the advanced knowledge comes from postgraduate studies or years of learning from seniors in the company.
Contrary to what many people might believe, the journey of a fresh graduate is never easy. Besides passing examinations, we are required to do projects and be in touch with ethical and professional issues that exist in real life. We are required to do research and produce that thesis before we deserve to be bestowed that title of “Bachelor”. Many have spent sleepless nights aiming for that right to be called a “Bachelor”. Many employers have gone through university life, too – how could they not understand what it takes to get a university degree?
Many fresh graduates have spent tens or hundreds of thousands of ringgit with the hopes that they can contribute to society and make a good living for themselves. But to be branded as liabilities is such a poor way to fuel the enthusiasm of fresh graduates who really want to make a difference.
If there is one thing that I can be permitted to tell all employers, it is this: “Please don’t ask us to prove that we’re not liabilities. Help us to prove to you that we are assets that will not depreciate as the years go by.”
Henry Yew has strong resentment against this article.