Fresh polytechnic graduates find it tougher in the job market as employment rate falls

Fresh polytechnic graduates had it tougher in the job market last year, according to the latest survey conducted by the five polytechnics here. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Fresh polytechnic graduates had it tougher in the job market last year, according to the latest survey conducted by the five polytechnics here - although they said there was no cause to worry.

According to the survey, 86.4 per cent of their graduates found permanent, freelance or part-time jobs last year within six months of graduation. This is a drop of 4.2 percentage points from 2016's figure of 90.6, and the lowest since 2005, when the survey was first conducted.

But polytechnics remain optimistic, saying that the latest employment rate "remains healthy". The survey, released on Friday (Jan 12), also showed that graduates' median monthly salary rose to $2,200 from $2,180 in 2016.

"The decline (in employment rate) is partly due to year-on-year changes in labour market and economic conditions, and preferences of students upon graduation," added the polytechnics.

The survey committee also said that more graduates are also delaying their entry into the labour market by pursuing their studies first, with a spokesman adding: "This is a larger trend, and increasingly we need to have a deeper understanding of graduates' preferences and aspirations when looking at these data."

UOB economist Francis Tan cautioned against reading too much into the survey numbers as fluctuations for such data are common.

"Wage growth and the hiring scene was poorer in general last year (2017) due to the slower economy in 2016, and polytechnic graduates were not spared from this phenomenon. With improved economic figures in 2017, the next survey should see more positive numbers for these graduates," he said.

The survey was conducted between October to December last year (2017), and involved 10,151 people who finished their final examinations last year. Also surveyed were 5,022 graduates from 2014 who completed their full-time national service (NS) between April 1, 2016 and March 31 last year (2017).

The employment rate for post-NS graduates fell from 95.4 per cent in 2016 to 89.8 per cent in 2017. Their median monthly salary dropped from $2,517 in 2016 to $2,480.

Ms Annie Yap, managing director of human resource and recruitment firm AYP Group, suggested providing a more detailed list of courses in which graduates were less employable.

"For instance, retail-related courses might have taken taken a hit with the growing role of e-commerce that has disrupted the retail space, so graduates from such courses might be affected," she added.

Last year's graduates from health sciences courses earned the highest median monthly salary of the cohort, the same as in 2016. But the median salary fell from $2,800 in 2016 to $2,600.

Ms Perlina Lee, 21, graduated from Nanyang Polytechnic last year (2017) and delayed her university education to gain working experience in her industry of interest in human resource.

"I've seen some of my peers ask for a pay above market rate for a nine-to-five office job, so graduates should do their market research to find out what the industry is actually paying," she added.

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