ARE GRADUATES TO BE BLAMED? UNEMPLOYMENT OF COMPUTER SCIENCE GRADUATES IN MALAYSIA By Norshima Zainal Shah Dublin City University, Ireland ABSTRACT The primary aim of this paper is to identify future help which can contribute towards reducing the unemployment rate of graduates in Malaysia, especially those with Computer Science Degrees. It does so by gaining initial insights into this problem through two groups: graduates and employers. The data draws on why graduates are unemployed from their own perspective as well as employers’ expectations towards the new workforce. The study concludes with two striking observations. Firstly, the graduates themselves feel that they are to be blamed for being unemployed. In addition, the employers too feel similarly, so reinforcing graduates’ attitudes as one of the major reasons for graduates’ unemployment. BACKGROUND TO THE RESEARCH In February 2006, the Berita Harian, a local newspaper, reported that every year Malaysia produces 60,000 graduates. 20,217 jobless graduates registered themselves with the Ministry of Human Resources Malaysia in June 2006. Tables 1 and 2 show the high rate of unemployment among graduates according to universities and courses in Malaysia. Table 1: Unemployment among graduates according to universities University Unemployed % Universiti Teknologi Mara 3,278 16.2% Universiti Utara Malaysia 1,532 7.6% Private Universities & Colleges 1,217 6.0% Universiti Teknologi Malaysia 1,147 5.7% Universiti Kebangsaan 971 4.8% Malaysia Universiti Pertanian Malaysia 919 4.5% Other public universities 840 4.2% Universiti Malaya 531 2.6% Universiti Sains Malaysia 505 2.5% Universiti Malaysia Sabah 371 1.8% Universiti Islam Antarabangsa 358 1.8% Foreign Graduates 342 1.7% Universiti Malaysia Sarawak 174 0.9% Universiti Pendidikan Sultan 39 0.2%
Idris Others 7,993 39.5% Total 20,217 100.0% Table 2: Unemployment among Malaysian graduates according to courses Course/Subjects Unemployed % Computer Science 3,942 19.5% Business 3,736 18.5% Administration/Management Engineering 3,096 15.3% Accountancy 1,923 9.5% Literature & Social Sciences 1,283 6.3% Pure Science & Applied 1,303 6.4% Sciences Architecture & Building 540 2.7% Management Agriculture, Fisheries & 401 2.0% Forestry Others 3,993 19.8% Total 20,217 100.0% In general, there are common perceived reasons as to why graduates are unemployed in Malaysia. Graduates lack skills (Vijan 2007); they are not able to impress employers during interviews because they do not have the right skills like presentation and communication skills which include proficiency in English (Phang 2006). In addition, they cannot perform to contribute to the company once they start work because they are not “work-ready”. Malaysian universities are not producing “work-ready” graduates because the country’s education system is too exam-oriented (Fong 2004; Henwood 2007). They produce graduates who are competent theory-wise but have no sufficient practical exposure. Finally, another common relevant reason is related to the mismatch between what the universities are producing and what the Malaysian job-market seeks (Asma and Lim, 2000; Yogeeswaran, 2005; Vijan, 2007). Finally, This unemployment dilemma might also be the result of the nature of computer science where skills are always changing and dynamic or, as Hesketh (2000) terms, as ‘converging’. This phenomenon has caused a commotion in Malaysia where local society is starting to accept that there is no guarantee of employment after a degree. This has made graduates automatically enroll themselves for postgraduate programmes; parents become more concerned about the courses their children are signing up for - or is it their children’s’ employment at the end of the study period - and educators no longer stress educational excellence only but have started to recognize that skills need to be taught. Reacting to the problem, the Malaysian Government has taken crucial steps to face this problem. Examples...
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