Tougher for poly grads to find jobs last year: Poll

87.4% got work within 6 months amid hiring slowdown, but polys still bullish about outlook

The proportion of polytechnic graduates who were unemployed crept up to 12.6 per cent last year.
The proportion of polytechnic graduates who were unemployed crept up to 12.6 per cent last year.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Fresh polytechnic graduates had a harder time in the job market last year, amid a hiring slowdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The latest graduate employment survey conducted by the five polytechnics in Singapore showed 87.4 per cent of their graduates found permanent, freelance or part-time jobs within six months of graduation last year.

This is a drop from 90.7 per cent in 2019 and 89.5 per cent in 2018.

The median gross monthly salary among graduates in full-time permanent employment remained at $2,400 last year, like in 2019. In 2018, the figure was $2,350.

The proportion of polytechnic graduates who were unemployed crept up to 12.6 per cent last year, from 9.3 per cent in 2019 and 10.5 per cent in 2018.

But the polytechnics remain optimistic about the economic outlook for their graduates.

In a statement yesterday, Ngee Ann Polytechnic principal Clarence Ti said: "This year's graduates are entering the job market in an unprecedented time. Covid-19 has had a major impact on our economy.

"We are glad that many of our graduates have been resilient and managed to secure a job despite the challenging times. Although the pandemic has been disruptive, there are exciting opportunities in sectors such as healthcare, infocomm technology, cyber security and e-commerce."

Speaking on behalf of the polytechnic graduate employment survey committee, Mr Ti said the institutes will continue to provide career guidance and support to graduates to help them find a job in the area of their training or pivot to the new job roles being created.

Some 8,946 of 11,909 fresh graduates last year responded to the poll, which was conducted from Oct 1 to Dec 2 last year. Also surveyed were 5,461 of 9,619 graduates from 2017, who completed their full-time national service between April 1, 2019 and March 31 last year.

The poll also found that 2.9 per cent of the graduates who responded had either accepted a job offer or were actively starting a business venture. Of those in the labour force, 52 per cent were in full-time permanent employment, while 31.6 per cent were in part-time or temporary employment.

This includes 5.2 per cent of graduates on the SGUnited Traineeships Programme, set up last year to help fresh graduates boost their employability by the time hiring demand picks up after the pandemic.

Just like in previous years, about half the polytechnic graduates in part-time or temporary employment indicated that they were concurrently pursuing or preparing to begin further studies.

The polytechnics said yesterday they had stepped up efforts to help graduates amid the Covid-19 pandemic through career guidance and support. They have also tapped their network of industry partners for job placement and apprenticeship opportunities for graduates.

Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) graduate Ryan Tan, 26, who completed a diploma in digital game art and design last year, did not hear back from two companies after sending out his resume.

He took up a part-time graphic design job for a perfume retailer for about two months, before starting a traineeship with NYP last September. He is now developing an app prototype using augmented reality to teach design students how to operate machinery.

"The traineeship will help me to broaden my portfolio and practise 3D-modelling skills. I'm also learning some programming skills, which are new to me," he said.

Another graduate, Mr Jaryl Chng, 24, from Ngee Ann Polytechnic, is now working full-time with technology firm Nebulas Tree, after completing a SkillsFuture work-study programme and earning a specialist diploma last November.

"After being in the workforce for about two years, I think the way forward is to gain more skills and tech certifications through work rather than a university degree," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 13, 2021, with the headline 'Tougher for poly grads to find jobs last year: Poll'. Print Edition | Subscribe