Why It Matters

Goals of poly grads changing

More polytechnic students are choosing to continue their studies instead of finding work immediately after graduating. This is a preference among diploma holders that has emerged over the last decade, and is also seen in the latest graduate employment survey conducted by the five polytechnics.

The results released last Friday showed that 86.4 per cent of their graduates found permanent, freelance or part-time jobs last year within six months of graduation. This is down from 2016's figure of 90.6 per cent, and the lowest since 2005, when the survey was first conducted.

The employment rate for post-national service graduates also dipped from 95.4 per cent in 2016 to 89.8 per cent last year. This decline is not a cause for worry and, as the polytechnics explained, is partly due to year-on-year changes in the labour market and economic conditions, as well as students' choices upon graduation.

Overall, the employment rate remains high, and the median monthly pay of diploma holders has been climbing slowly.

But more attention should be paid to the changing aspirations of young people as the public university landscape expands and diploma holders seek to upgrade themselves through further studies.

According to the survey, most graduates taking on part-time, freelance or temporary work were doing so because they were pursuing or preparing to commence further studies.

But even as the Government opens up more university places, it has been urging young people to consider other pathways.

It will take time for mindsets to shift, but, as the figures show, among those from polytechnics who choose to work, there is a small but growing number who are opting for flexible work arrangements, including freelancing and setting up companies.

It is encouraging that some young Singaporeans are trying to figure out their interests and strengths before jumping into any course or career for life.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 18, 2018, with the headline Goals of poly grads changing. Subscribe