Graduates of more specialised courses have better chance of being hired: Experts

Across the board fewer students who graduated last year managed to secure a full-time job.
Across the board fewer students who graduated last year managed to secure a full-time job.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Graduates of less specialised fields felt the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic more and had greater trouble finding employment, experts told The Straits Times.

Conversely, those in courses that were more focused were deemed to be of a "high priority" for hiring, the experts said when reflecting on the annual joint graduate employment survey released on Friday (Feb 19).

Across the board, fewer students who graduated last year managed to secure a full-time job, but the effects were muted for those who did IT, health sciences and business. More than three in four graduates from courses in these fields secured a full-time permanent job within six months of leaving university.

Graduates of more general disciplines though did not do as well. Only six in 10 who studied humanities and social sciences found full-time permanent jobs, and those in arts, design and media as well as science courses had even less luck.

Singapore Human Resources Institute (SHRI) president Low Peck Kem said that this was to be expected, considering how companies had to be more careful about their spending amid Covid-19 disruptions.

"Companies would be more targeted in their selection process and hire those whose competencies and skills are sorely needed to run the business. That is why the specialised sectors continue to do well, as these skills are in high demand," she said.

Sectors that are more general tend to take a harder hit as limited hiring places would mean that priority would go to specialised new hires who can hit the ground running, added Ms Low.

Managing director at recruitment agency Randstad Singapore, Jaya Dass, noted that the pandemic had shifted priorities for companies to focus on keeping their core business alive. This means that hiring would be based on how much specialised and significant contributions employees can make to help a business survive.

"There's a need to keep the wheels on the bus turning, so priorities shift and companies would hire based on what is needed for their survival. It would be skewed towards specialised roles, and not generalists."

The survey showed that while full-time permanent employment might be down, more graduates are still finding jobs. Overall, 93.6 per cent of them were employed within six months of completing their final examinations, up from 90.7 per cent in 2019.

Mr Paul Heng, managing director of career consultancy NeXT Career Consulting Group, partly attributed this to help from the Government.

Some 16.9 per cent of graduates were employed through the Government's SGUnited Traineeship programme. This helps fresh graduates, including from the polytechnics, boost their employability chances by going through an attachment coupled with an allowance with a company.

But Associate Professor Walter Theseira, an economist from the Singapore University of Social Sciences, warned that while these graduates might be employed eventually, the quality of traineeships might vary.

"There definitely are good traineeships in the programme, but not all of them will be a good match for the person. The question is, can these graduates build their resume or get relevant experience?"